AG Bildungseinrichtungen / Educational Facilities

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Children have attracted particular interest throughout the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and it is thought that communal facilities such as schools and day care centers have a particularly important role in transmission. The social, economic, and political consequences of educational establishment closures must be weighed against a potential increase in the rate of transmission as a result of group-based teaching in schools or childcare facilities. Compared to adults, children are thought to be more likely to develop milder symptoms or remain asymptomatic. As a result, there is a risk of unidentified asymptomatic cases transmitting the virus to ‘at risk’ groups, such as older persons and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. The testing strategy, which is informed by the current epidemiological status with regard to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, currently comprises the following components:

Berlin School Study (BECOSS)

As part of this study, researchers will observe students and schoolteachers, children and childcare staff at day care centers and other staff working at both school and day care centers for a period of approximately one year. The purpose is to monitor infection levels. This study involves regular testing drives at randomly selected primary schools, secondary schools and day care centers. All testing is conducted by mobile Charité teams and takes place at the relevant educational facilities.  The study also utilizes and tests other, non-laboratory-based methods to monitor the health of participants at these facilities.

What has happened so far?

This long-term study is now underway. The initial testing drive at Berlin-based schools has been completed and will be followed by testing in childcare facilities. Testing will then be repeated in a few months’ time.

Screening

The purpose of screening is to identify asymptomatic individuals who could cause further infections in educational facilities and among their social contacts. What does participation in screening offer?

The aim is to offer a long-term testing service, enabling members of staff working in schools and childcare facilities to undergo testing for suspected SARS-CoV-2 infections. Staff do not have to be symptomatic to qualify for testing.

Testing centers will offer dedicated testing time slots to prevent contact with patients (infection control). Prior to undergoing nasopharyngeal swabbing, school and childcare staff will also be asked to complete an online questionnaire to establish their risk of infection. All educational facilities will receive detailed information on this service directly from the Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family. Participation in this research is voluntary.

What has happened so far?

Screening services have been established at a number of testing centers across Berlin. Staff are being notified of this service by the Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family. 

Testing services targeting individuals with mild symptoms

In an attempt to break chains of infection early, staff from educational facilities will be encouraged to consult their family physicians/a COVID-19 practice run by the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KV)/a testing center, even if they have mild symptoms. This is in line with the recommendations of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). All schools and child day care centers will be informed of this service.

What has happened so far?

This service is available independent of the testing strategy and is only mentioned here as the early testing of individuals with symptoms indicative of COVID-19 is crucial to containing the infection.