SARS-CoV-2 Infection, Risk Perception, Behaviour, and Preventative Measures at Schools in Berlin, Germany, during the Early Post-Lockdown Phase: A Cross-Sectional Study

Hommes F, van Loon W, Thielecke M, Abramovich I, Lieber S, Hammerich R, Gehrke-Beck S, Linzbach E, Schuster A, von dem Busche K, Theuring S, Gertler M , Equihua Martinez G, Richter J, Bergmann C, Bölke A, Böhringer F, Mall MA, Rosen A, Krannich A, Keller J , Bethke N, Kurzmann M, Kurth T, Kirchberger V, Seybold J, Mockenhaupt FP.

Int J Environ Res Public Health 2021, 18, 2739. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18052739

Abstract:

Briefly before the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Berlin, Germany, schools closed in mid-March 2020. Following re-opening, schools resumed operation at a reduced level for nine weeks. During this phase, we aimed at assessing, among students and teachers, infection status, symptoms, individual behaviour, and institutional infection prevention measures. Twenty-four primary and secondary school classes, randomly selected across Berlin, were examined. Oro-nasopharyngeal swabs and capillary blood samples were collected to determine SARS-CoV-2 infection (PCR) and specific IgG (ELISA), respectively. Medical history, household characteristics, leisure activities, fear of infection, risk perception, hand hygiene, facemask wearing, and institutional preventive measures were assessed. Descriptive analysis was performed. Among 535 participants (385 students, 150 staff), one teenager was found to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 (0.2%), and seven individuals exhibited specific IgG (1.3%). Compared to pre-pandemic times, screen time (e.g., TV, gaming, social media) increased, and the majority of primary school students reported reduced physical activity (42.2%). Fear of infection and risk perception were relatively low, acceptance of adapted health behaviors was high. In this post-lockdown period of low SARS-CoV-2 incidence in Berlin, individual and school-level infection prevention measures were largely adhered to. Nevertheless, vigilance and continued preventive measures are essential to cope with future pandemic activity.