Infection Control Guidelines for Upper Secondary Schools

About the coronavirus

About the virus, illness and infection

Covid-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, also referred to as the coronavirus. The virus can cause a mild to severe upper respiratory infection. New, more contagious virus variants have gained a foothold in Norway. The variant of the virus first identified in England in particular has spread across the country.

The virus can be killed by soap and water, as well as disinfectant with alcohol and temperatures over 60°C. It is also deactivated more quickly outdoors.

Transmission method: The virus is primarily transmitted through inhalation droplets when viral particles emitted from the respiratory track of a sick or infected person are spread by droplets after, for example, coughing or sneezing, and then enter another person’s respiratory system. Transmission can also take place when droplets from the respiratory track end up on hands or surfaces that are later touched by others and the virus is then transmitted to the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth (contact infection). There is no basis at this time to claim that airborne transmission is a common method of transmission for Covid-19, nor is there any documentation of food or waterborne transmission.

New variants of the virus (especially the UK variant) are more contagious, but transmit in the same way as the original strain. This is why the infection control recommendations are based on the same principles as before. The basic infection control measures, such as staying home when ill, good hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and social distancing measures are also effective against the new variants. Effective and fast testing, contact tracing, isolation of sick individuals and more quarantining (abbreviated in Norwegian as TISK) continues to be the most important strategy to limit the spread of the virus. This is the responsibility of the municipal health services.

For more information, see the Norwegian Institute of Public Health website.

The role of children and young people in the pandemic

The majority of knowledge we have about infection in children and young people applies to the original strain of the virus. Children catch and spread the virus around half as much as adults, including the new virus strains. Young people transmit the virus to a greater degree than children, but less than adults. Children and young people are most often infected within their household, followed by private gatherings or at kindergarten/school.

Infections at schools and kindergartens reflect the infection level in wider society: when infection rates increase in local communities, the number of infected children and young people also increases. Local measures therefore help control the spread of the virus and make it possible to keep schools open. New and more contagious strains of the virus increase the likelihood of cases at kindergartens and schools because the strains are more contagious in all age groups (ECDC). When very strict social contact restrictions are imposed for other age groups, schools and kindergartens are the few places where people still meet. For this reason, cases of infection and outbreaks can occur, even with strictly enforced infection control measures.

It is first and foremost symptomatic individuals who are contagious and the virus is most infectious when a person begins to show symptoms. The majority of children and young people will have very mild illness and it is estimated that 20-50% will have no symptoms whatsoever when infected. Children have fewer symptoms than adults and are therefore less contagious. Young people become more ill than children, but to a lesser degree than adults. The UK variant, which has spread widely in Norway, is more contagious in all age groups, but the distribution by age group is comparable to the original strain (Public Health England).

Young people have a wider social circle and geographically spread contact network than children. Higher infection rates can therefore occur among young people than children. However, the risk of an increased spread of infection among young people can be counteracted by the fact that young people are better able to respond and adhere to the recommended infection control measures than younger children.

It is important that children and young people are subjected to as few restrictions as possible and it is especially important to keep schools and kindergartens open. The overall negative effects of closed schools are significant. Consequently, the effectiveness of closure to limit the spread of infection should only be considered as a last resort. The traffic light model was precisely developed to keep schools open during different infection levels in the community.

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