“The evidence from many countries around the world is that transmission in schools is very low,” said Russell Viner, president of the UK’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, in a statement. Viner also said that most children catch Covid-19 from adults in their household rather than schools.
Data compiled by UNESCO shows most countries around the world have closed some or all schools for some time during the pandemic. The organization said that at the peak of the crisis, as many as 1.6 billion learners were out of school because of the virus.
Since then, each of Germany’s 16 federal states has been in charge of its own reopening timetable. While most states were allowing at least some final-year students to attend in-person classes by the first week of May, the vast majority of German students stayed at home until much later.
First to close, first to reopen
Norway was one of the first European countries to close schools on March 12. It began gradually easing its coronavirus restrictions in April. Kindergartens were first to reopen on April 20, with primary schools welcoming pupils in grades one to four a week later.
By May, Norwegian primary and secondary schools were opened for all students, but with new hygienic measures in place. Younger kids have been divided into smaller groups while high schools implemented social distancing measures.
Denmark, like Norway, closed schools early. Its lockdown has been successful — so successful in fact, that the country decided to bring its reopening plan forward in April, after its infection rates declined faster than expected. Denmark was the first country in Europe to reopen schools, with kindergartens and grades one to five allowed to come back on April 15. Older kids started returning to schools on May 18.
While adult education and lifelong learning programs, known as folk high schools, were allowed to reopen on June 8, universities will stay shut until August 1.
Sweden decided early on in the pandemic against imposing a wide coronavirus lockdown. Schools remained opened for all kids under 16, although principals and local authorities were given the power to shut schools in case of a major breakout. But even in Sweden, school trips and large-scale events have been canceled and upper secondary schools were closed on March 17, reopening only on June 15.
The country’s Minister for Education Anna Ekström said the decision to avoid closing down the entire school system was based on science. “The main reason was that it would not be an efficient and effective measure to stop the spread of the virus,” she said at a news conference last month. She said the rate of Covid-19 cases among school staff was similar to that in other professions.
A graphic in an earlier version of this story has been updated to correct when US states started to reopen.
CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Susanne Gargiulo contributed reporting.