Fueling the Covid-19 pandemic: summer school holidays and incidence rates in German districts

J Public Health (Oxf). 2021 Mar 26:fdab080. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdab080. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The Robert-Koch-Institute reports that during the summer holiday period a foreign country is stated as the most likely place of infection for an average of 27 and a maximum of 49% of new SARS-CoV-2 infections in Germany.

METHODS: Cross-sectional study on observational data. In Germany, summer school holidays are coordinated between states and spread out over 13 weeks. Employing a dynamic model with district fixed effects, we analyze the association between these holidays and weekly incidence rates across 401 German districts.

RESULTS: We find effects of the holiday period of around 45% of the average district incidence rates in Germany during their respective final week of holidays and the 2 weeks after holidays end. Western states tend to experience stronger effects than Eastern states. We also find statistically significant interaction effects of school holidays with per capita taxable income and the share of foreign residents in a district’s population.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that changed behavior during the holiday season accelerated the pandemic and made it considerably more difficult for public health authorities to contain the spread of the virus by means of contact tracing. Germany’s public health authorities did not prepare adequately for this acceleration.

PMID:33765149 | DOI:10.1093/pubmed/fdab080