Press release

04.06.2020

Berlin’s testing strategy – Charité starts screening program for staff from childcare centers and school-based study

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Joint press release by Senate Chancellery – Higher Education and Research and Charité

The testing strategy for educational facilities comprises multiple elements: Charité will start by testing random samples of staff from 24 schools and 24 kindergartens for SARS-CoV-2. This will mark the beginning of a comprehensive coronavirus testing strategy*, which was developed at Charité in response to a request by the Senate of Berlin.

From next week, Charité will schedule individual testing time slots for asymptomatic staff from the 48 selected educational facilities (12 primary schools, 12 secondary schools and 24 child care centers).

The next step will see Charité launch its school-based study** in mid-June. This will involve mobile Charité teams conducting testing drives of 24 randomly selected schools. At each primary and secondary school, 20 children and adolescents, as well as five adults, will undergo regular testing over a period of 12 months.

The aim of this stepwise approach is to study the developing situation and identify potential risks as educational facilities gradually return to normal operations. This will provide the data needed for an epidemiological evaluation of the unfolding situation and subsequently inform future planning.

Emphasizing the significance of the plans, Michael Müller, Berlin’s Governing Mayor and Senator for Higher Education and Research, says: “It has taken real strength and endurance for all of us to drastically reduce the spread of coronavirus in our city. We need to continue to work together to protect what is a hard-won and fragile achievement. Thanks to the expertise at Charité, we are now implementing a clever testing strategy, which will establish a comprehensive and multi-faceted early warning system for infections and enables us to learn more about the virus. Testing drives in educational institutions, hospitals, nursing homes and many other areas within the public arena, such as transport, legal services, and even the catering trade, are an important foundation on which to construct a cautious return to normal life in Berlin.

Explaining details of the testing strategy, Charité’s Chief Executive Officer, Prof. Dr. Heyo K. Kroemer, says: “We developed the concept guided by current scientific standards and went on to integrate the options currently available for managing the pandemic. As we still do not have access to rapid testing, we decided to use a risk-adapted random testing approach. Using results from the selected group of participants and mapping them onto the general population will help us to get a picture of the status of the pandemic in Berlin.” He adds: “The current collaboration of Charité and Vivantes, with various partners from within the public health care sector and government agencies, illustrates our plans for Berlin as a center of research and the degree of networking we aim to achieve.”

The Berlin testing strategy also comprises plans for: the screening of members of staff and patients at hospitals across the city; infection surveillance in care homes; and the risk-adapted random testing of other groups. The aim is to develop a response to the pandemic, one which is both effective and preventive in focus, and to prevent and contain new clusters of infection. This will enable a return to normal life which does not expose people to uncontrollable risks.

*Berlin testing strategy
The state of Berlin’s flexible testing strategy aims to enable a return to normal life which does not overburden the health care system. The strategy’s key focus is the early identification of cases and clusters of infections. Its implementation is being coordinated by a project team at CharitéUniversitätsmedizin Berlin. The four working groups (AGs) involved are being led by scientific experts from Charité. To deliver on the objectives of the testing strategy, each AG is responsible for developing both the methodology and any subsequent measures for their target group. The four AGs are: AG Education (Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family; Charité); AG Nursing (Senate Department for Health, Care and Equality; Charité); AG Hospitals (Charité; Vivantes); and AG Population, which remains to be established. A further AG, which will be responsible for consultation and coordination with the public health service, also remains to be established. Public health officers and other relevant individuals from within the public health service will be represented in each of the AGs and the Steering Group.

**Berlin Coronavirus School Study/Berliner Corona Schulstudie (BECOSS)
The study aims to conduct regular follow-up examinations of teachers and other staff as well as children at both schools and day care centers for a period of approximately 12 months. The purpose is to monitor infection levels. Staff and children will undergo regular testing for both current (PCR) and previous (antibodies) infections. Approximately 20-40 children and 5-10 members of staff will be selected at each of the participating facilities. Participation in this longitudinal study is voluntary and subject to the consent of the children’s parents/legal guardians.

Contact

Matthias Kuder
Spokesperson for Higher Education and Research
Senate Chancellery – Higher Education and Research
t: +49 30 9026 5010

Manuela Zingl
Corporate Spokesperson
CharitéUniversitätsmedizin Berlin
t: +49 30 450 570 400



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