UK coronavirus strain found at school where Rotterdam area teacher, 38, died
An outbreak of the B117 mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which initially emerged in the United Kingdom, was linked to a cluster of coronavirus infections at the Willibrordschool, a primary school north of Rotterdam. A 38-year-old teacher who died last Thursday was one of the people who tested positive for a coronavirus infection at the school, though it was not yet clear if she was infected with the B117 variant.
“This is terrible," said Saskia Schenning, the chair of the school’s executive board, to the Telegraaf. “Her death happened unexpectedly.”
The board said on the website of the school’s parent organization that it was shocked that someone "in the prime of her life, who had such a warm heart for her school and our foundation, is suddenly no longer there.”
The school has dealt with about 40 coronavirus infections between students, parents, and teachers since the end of November. Five of them were identified as carrying the B117 mutation, the school confirmed after Health Minister Hugo de Jonge released some details about the cluster. There was no direct connection to the United Kingdom found during the source and contact investigations.
In an interview with regional broadcaster Rijnmond, Schenning said it was not yet clear if the teacher’s death was due to Covid-19, or if she was one of those infected with the UK strain. NL Times reviewed two reports from the RIVM released on Tuesday which showed the agency learned last week that one person aged 35-39 died as a result of Covid-19, and that the person killed was female.
“We have no idea how the infection originated, but we know through the GGD that there is no link with England," Schenning told the broadcaster. “Of course that is disappointing and worrisome. We are the first school in the Netherlands, so you know that there is a lot of attention for it."
The school has two locations in Bergschenhoek, a village in the municipality Lansingerland. Schenning said they did not think the outbreak would develop so quickly. Eventually they voluntarily shut the first building on December 11 and the second three days later. All schools in the Netherlands were ordered by the Cabinet to close their doors on December 16.
Just in December, residents of Lansingerland tested positive for coronavirus over 1,050 times, data from the RIVM showed. Around 62,500 people live in the municipality.
The parents of Willibrordschool students, their household members, school staff and volunteers have all been asked to get tested for the coronavirus infection, Schenning told Rijnmond. The local branch of the GGD municipal health service has set up a special section at the test location at Rotterdam The Hague Airport to take samples from the school community members. The GGD is working with Erasmus Medical Center to investigate the cluster.
“The fact that the British variant has now been discovered at this primary school is a shock," said Lansingerland Mayor Pieter van de Stadt, according to ANP. “It creates more uncertainty; for the school, the teachers, the parents and the children. I empathize with them. I am calling on all parents to participate in the GGD investigation.”