How a school holiday led to persistent COVID-19 outbreaks in Europe

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This paper investigates the role of large outbreaks on the persistence of Covid-19 over time. Using data from 650 European regions in 14 countries, I first show that winter school holidays in late February/early March 2020 (weeks 8, 9 and 10) led to large regional outbreaks of Covid-19 in the spring with the spread being 60% and up-to over 90% higher compared to regions with earlier school holidays. While the impact of these initial large outbreaks fades away over the summer months, it systematically reappears from the fall as regions with school holidays in weeks 8, 9 and 10 had 30–70% higher spread. This suggests that following a large outbreak, there is a strong element of underlying (latent) regional persistence of Covid-19. The strong degree of persistence highlights the long-term benefits of effective (initial) containment policies, as once a large outbreak has occurred, Covid-19 persists. This result emphasizes the need for vaccinations against Covid-19 in regions that have recently experienced large outbreaks but are well below herd-immunity, to avoid a new surge of cases.
Original languageEnglish
Article number24390
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2021

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