SARS-COV-2 INFECTION IN UK UNIVERSITY STUDENTS: LESSONS FROM1SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER 2020 AND MODELLING INSIGHTS FOR FUTURE2STUDENT RETURN

Jessica Enright, Edward M Hill, Helena B Stage, Kirsty J Bolton, Emily J Nixon, Emma L Fairbanks, Maria L Tang, llen Brooks-Pollock, Louise Dyson, Chris J Budd, Rebecca B Hoyle, Lars Schewe, Julia R. Gog, Michael J Tildesley

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Abstract

In this paper we present work on SARS-CoV-2 transmission in UK higher education settings usingmultiple approaches to assess the extent of university outbreaks, how much those outbreaks may have led tospillover in the community, and the expected effects of control measures. Firstly, we found that the distributionof outbreaks in universities in late 2020 were consistent with the expected importation of infection from arrivingstudents. Considering outbreaks at one university, larger halls of residence posed higher risks for transmission.The dynamics of transmission from university outbreaks to wider communities is complex, and while sometimesspillover does occur, occasionally even large outbreaks do not give any detectable signal of spillover to the localpopulation. Secondly, we explored proposed control measures for reopening and keeping open universities. Wefound the proposal of staggering the return of students to university residence is of limited value in terms ofreducing transmission. We show that student adherence to testing and self-isolation are likely to be much moreimportant for reducing transmission during term time. Finally we explored strategies for testing students in thecontext of a more transmissible variant and found that frequent testing would be necessary to prevent a majoroutbreak
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages37
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Jul 2021

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