COVID-19 student-to-teacher transmissibility is limited

Monday, 04 May, 2020

COVID-19 student-to-teacher transmissibility is limited

A report investigating the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in NSW schools has found that the disease has limited transmissibility from students to teachers. The report, ‘COVID-19 in schools — the experience in NSW’, was created by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) and studied 15 schools in NSW that recorded confirmed COVID-19 cases from March to mid-April 2020. The report analysed the transmission of COVID-19 within NSW schools in Term One, and found no evidence that students transmit the virus to adults in the schools studied. NCIRS also found that of the 863 close contacts at schools with positive cases, only two contracted the virus, with no evidence of students infecting teachers.

Sarah Mitchell, NSW Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning, said the report provides further information for schools as they begin planning for students to return to the classroom. “We know that COVID-19 has created some anxiety for parents, teachers and school staff; however, the findings in this report confirm existing health advice that schools remain open and are safe for students to return,” Mitchell said. “Our managed return to school provides an orderly pathway to return students to the classroom, and allows for additional measures for teachers and parents. Our teachers are dedicated professionals who are excited to see their students again. They have shown great innovation in adapting to the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought, but nothing replaces the experience of learning in a classroom.”

Although school-aged children make up 16% of the NSW population, only 1.7% of COVID-19 cases have been in this age group. Health experts have been working closely with schools to follow up on any reported cases with contact tracing, and have been providing advice to the Department of Education to help keep children, their families and staff safe, NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said. Professor Kristine Macartney, Director of NCIRS, stated that while the investigation is ongoing, findings from the study build on data from overseas that suggests very little spread of COVID-19 between children or from children to adults.

“A unique aspect of this work is that we were able to look specifically for spread in schools over many weeks and utilise additional testing methods,” Professor Macartney said. “We appreciate the cooperation of the students, families, teachers and principals who really saw the value of systematically and scientifically approaching the investigation.”

For a copy of the report, visit

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