The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), remains a global public health concern in 2021. However, the risk of attending schools during the pandemic remains unevaluated. This study estimated the secondary transmission rate at schools using the results of a real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) screening test performed between July 2020 and April 2021, before starting the nationwide mass vaccination. A total of 1,924 students (20 RT-PCR-positive; 1.0%) from 52 schools or preschools were evaluated, together with 1,379 non-adults (95 RT-PCR-positive; 6.9%) exposed to SARS-CoV-2 in non-school environments. Assuming that the infectious index cases were asymptomatic and the transmission at schools followed a Bernoulli process, we estimated the probability of transmission after each contact at school as approximately 0.005 (0.5% per contact) with the current infection prevention measures at schools in Japan (i.e., hand hygiene, physical distancing, wearing masks, and effective ventilation). Furthermore, assuming that all children are capable of carrying the infection, then contact between an index case and 20-30 students per day at schools would yield the expected value for secondary cases of ≥ 1.0, during the 10 days of the infectious period. In conclusion, with the current infection prevention measures at schools in Japan, secondary transmission at schools would occur in approximately every 200 contacts. When considering this rate, compliance with the current infection prevention measures at schools and early detection and quarantine of the index cases would be effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 at schools.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-246
Number of pages8
JournalTohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Basic reproduction number
  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  • School
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)
  • Transmission model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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