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The COVID University Challenge: A Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points Assessment of the Return of Students to Higher Education Establishments

Publication date: 

3 Jun 2021


Risk Analysis, Vol. 0, No. 0, 2021


Edmunds KL, Bowater L, Brainard J, de Coriolis JC, Lake I, Malik RR, Newark L, Ward N, Yeoman K, Hunter P

Publication type: 



The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted economies and societies throughout the world since early 2020. Education is especially affected, with schools and universities widely closed for long periods. People under 25 years have the lowest risk of severe disease but their activities can be key to persistent ongoing community transmission. A challenge arose for how to provide education, including university level, without the activities of students increasing wider community SARS-CoV-2 infections. We used a Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP) framework to assess the risks associated with university student activity and recommend how to mitigate these risks. This tool appealed because it relies on multiagency collaboration and interdisciplinary expertise and yet is low cost, allowing rapid generation of evidence-based recommendations. We identified key critical control points associated with university student’ activities, lifestyle, and interaction patterns both on-and-off campus. Unacceptable contact thresholds and the most up-to-date guidance were used to identify levels of risk for potential SARS-CoV-2 transmission, as well as recommendations based on existing research and emerging evidence for strategies that can reduce the risks of transmission. Employing the preventative measures we suggest can reduce the risks of SARS-CoV-2 transmission among and from university students. Reduction of infectious disease transmission in this demographic will reduce overall community transmission, lower demands on health services and reduce risk of harm to clinically vulnerable individuals while allowing vital education activity to continue. HACCP assessment proved a flexible tool for risk analysis in a specific setting in response to an emerging infectious disease threat. Systematic approaches to assessing hazards and risk critical control points (#HACCP) enable robust strategies for protecting students and staff in HE settings during #COVID19 pandemic.