Worldwide, relatively few children have been reported with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Children become less seriously ill and almost never need to be hospitalised because of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. See the overview of the COVID-19 epidemiological situation in the Netherlands.

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Contagiousness increases with age

In general, the younger the children, the less significant the role they play in spreading the virus. This applies to the original virus variant and to the more contagious virus variants that have been circulating in the Netherlands since the end of last year. However, the more contagious variants involve more transmission of the virus in all age groups, compared to the old variants. Read more about the spread of the virus.

When the number of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the Netherlands increases or decreases, infections increase or decrease in all age groups, including children. The number of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the Netherlands is currently decreasing. Despite the current decrease in overall infections, it remains important to follow the basic recommendations, such as the hygiene rules and the guidelines for testing and staying home that apply to children. This applies everywhere, including at school.

Spread of the virus at school and outside of school 

Schools adopted stricter precautions when they reopened, with the aim of preventing transmission. The service document for childcare and primary education and  the service document for secondary education (in Dutch) describe what the schools are doing to reduce the risk of the virus spreading among children and staff. These measures are based on advice from RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment .

Since January, the general testing policy for children has been updated. In the context of contact tracing more children are tested, even if they do not have symptoms. This makes it possible to detect SARS-CoV-2 infections in children more quickly in order to prevent further spread. See also the video on testing children for COVID-19. As of 31 May 2021, the 1.5-metre rule has been discontinued for secondary education, which makes it possible for more children to go to school at the same time again. The aim is to have secondary school pupils and employees do periodic (preventive) self-tests twice a week. This is also a way to detect infections earlier and limit the risk of transmission within the school.

Infections both outside school and at school

We see clusters among children both outside school and within schools. At school, clusters are often seen in the classroom, generally involving mixed clusters in which both teachers and pupils are infected. Since schools reopened, there has been a clear increase in clusters that are related to the school/childcare setting. 

Quarantine and infections at school 

Who needs to be quarantined depends on the risk that someone has been infected. The Municipal Public Health Service (GGD) does source and contact tracing if there has been an infection in the class or at school, and advises on quarantine based on the findings. This is specific to each individual situation and may depend on such factors as the other measures in effect at that school, and whether more than one person is infected.

When to go to school or childcare, when to stay home

Information on when to keep your child home from childcare or primary school can be found at Government.nl.
Children and adolescents in vocational education (MBO) or higher education are subject to the
basic rules for staying home that apply to everyone.
Children with underlying medical problems do not appear to have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 than healthy children. If you are unsure, please consult your child’s doctor or paediatrician and the school management.
If a family member belongs to a
risk group, consult with the doctor and the school management.

Source and contact tracing

If a pupil or student is infected, the Municipal Public Health Service (GGD) checks which classmates were close contacts and therefore need to be quarantined. Due to the additional recommendation to have these children and school employees tested, clusters (outbreaks) can be detected and addressed more quickly and effectively. 

For more information on specific rules for young children and schoolchildren, distancing, testing and staying home, see Government.nl.

Hygiene in childcare facilities and schools

Good hygiene and hand hygiene help prevent COVID-19 from spreading. There are seperate hygiene guidelines for

See also Hygiene and COVID-19.

Ventilation and airing in childcare facilities and schools

Ventilation is important for a comfortable and healthy indoor climate in childcare facilities and schools. Read more about properly ventilating classrooms and other indoor areas in the ‘Protocol on education at school during corona’ (in Dutch) and the ‘ventilation guidelines’ (in Dutch).  It is also important to follow the basic recommendations.  For example, wash your hands regularly and stay home if you have symptoms.

For more information:

More information for schools

The website of the Dutch Government offers more information on the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in the context of various types of childcare and education. The site also provides detailed information for schools, such as protocols to minimise the spread of the coronavirus:

  • Childcare
  • Primary education and special education
  • Secondary education
  • Secondary vocational education (MBO)
  • Universities of applied sciences and research universities
  • Rules for distancing

RIVM.nl also has more information for pregnant workers.

Researching the role of children in the spread of the virus

RIVM is conducting various studies on the role of children in the spread of SARS-CoV-2:

  • RIVM is conducting a detailed study on the reports and outbreaks of COVID-19 infections received from the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) in the Netherlands.
  • RIVM is working closely with the monitoring stations operated by the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL) to investigate the registrations provided by GPs on patients with flu-like symptoms who are tested for COVID-19.
  • RIVM is conducting research among  COVID-19 patients and their family contacts in the Netherlands. The results of the first part of this study are now known. The second part of the family study started recently, focusing on households where the child was the first infected person in the family.
  • RIVM has launched a study on SARS-CoV-2 infections in primary schools.
  • RIVM has taken blood samples to test for antibodies against COVID-19 in the PIENTER Corona Study.
  • RIVM is keeping track of relevant literature on children and COVID-19. This also includes studies that have been conducted in other countries.

Research results

Go to the page presenting the research results

Frequently Asked Questions

What about the vaccinations for my child in the National Immunisation Programme and the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2?

It is very important for your child to receive the usual vaccinations from the National Immunisation Programme. If, for example, you postpone the 14-month shots, there is a risk that your child will contract diseases such as measles and meningococcal meningitis. These are highly contagious diseases that still occur in the Netherlands. If you or your child has cold symptoms or a fever, or if someone in the family has a fever, please contact the well-baby clinic.

Would you like to know more about vaccinations and the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2? Go to the frequently asked questions on the site of the National Immunisation Programme (in Dutch).