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Latest 12 months’s Eve celebrations linked to spike in COVID-19 cases: Small gatherings, not large events, the foremost wrongdoer

A recent Scientific Reports study explores whether Latest 12 months’s Eve celebrations impacted transmission of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causal agent of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), in Belgium.

Study: Unravelling the effect of Latest 12 months’s Eve celebrations on SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Image Credit: fornStudio /


Several studies have reported a rise in COVID-19 cases following public holidays and celebrations; nevertheless, to this point, no study has identified a single causal evidence.

Existing data has shown that superspreading events (SSEs) are considered one of the numerous contributors to the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens. Thus, it’s important to know the precise role of SSEs in increasing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 during holidays.

In regards to the study

The present study investigated whether Latest 12 months’s Eve celebrations in Belgium led to the next incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infections, particularly in the local people of upper education students.

The Belgian government implemented stringent restrictions on social interactions between November and December 2021. This policy was implemented based on their anticipation of an amazing surge in SARS-CoV-2 Omicron cases.

Several other restrictions were implemented by the tip of December, including wearing face masks in public indoor areas, prohibiting indoor mass gatherings, school closures, and mandatory distant work in several skilled sectors.

Christmas and Latest 12 months celebrations were restricted to personal gatherings in residential locations during this time. Nonetheless, no limit was imposed on the number of people allowed to be present at these gatherings.

Even after the implementation of those restrictions, a rise in COVID-19 cases was documented after Latest 12 months’s Eve, 2022. This finding was based on the trace program for higher education students in the town of Leuven.

Based on contact tracing, one previous study estimated the mean incubation period of the Omicron BA.1 lineage to be 3.03 days. Using phylogenetic and make contact with tracing data, the present study estimated how NYE celebrations influenced Omicron case numbers in higher education students in Leuven, Belgium.

About 50,000 higher education students at KU Leuven Association in Belgium were considered for the evaluation. The epidemic curve was plotted based on self-reported symptoms.

Study findings

In the course of the study period, Omicron BA.1 was the dominant circulating strain of SARS-CoV-2. Importantly, over 90% of scholars were vaccinated with a mean of three months from the last vaccination dose.

Based on test and trace program results, a short-lived surge in COVID-19 cases was observed after the vacation celebrations initially of 2022. Out of fifty,000 higher education students considered within the study, 2,505 underwent a polymerase chain response (PCR) test inside the first two weeks of the brand new yr.

Amongst tested students, 16.9% were positive for COVID-19. Excluding cases with weak signals or spike (S)-gene goal failure, the remaining 286 individuals were considered for further experiments and were interviewed by the contact tracing team. Subsequently, 54 individuals were grouped under possibly infected on NYE, 36 cases under possibly infected on NYE, and 196 cases were categorized under unknown sources. 

A powerful association was observed between social gatherings on NYE and increased COVID-19 cases amongst higher education students. More specifically, small-scale social gatherings on NYE were related to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Although there was a high secondary attack rate, SSEs were liable for 16-34% of infections on NYE. Thus, small-scale events, reasonably than SSEs, were the foremost contributors to a surge in recent cases of COVID-19. 

First-generation infections primarily originated from small-scale social gatherings. This statement may very well be true for each national and international scenarios regarding the transmission of the Omicron BA.1 strain.

The winter holidays include Christmas and Latest 12 months celebrations, each of that are linked with two occasions of large-scale inter-generational and inter-regional transmission. Members of the family and friends often have fun in enclosed spaces with physical interaction and powerful vocalization during these gatherings.

The resulting infections from these events have little opportunity to spread further until schools and workplaces reopen. Consistent with previous studies, the present study estimated the incubation period of the Omicron strain to be about 2.7 days.


The present study is the primary to point a strong link between public holiday celebrations and a rise in SARS-CoV-2 cases. Slightly than mass gatherings, simultaneous celebrations in small groups through the winter holidays were found to be the foremost contributor to increased SARS-CoV-2 infections.

Journal reference:

  • Geenen, C., Thibaut, J., Laenen, L., et al. (2023) Unravelling the effect of Latest 12 months’s Eve celebrations on SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Scientific Reports 13(1);1-9. doi:10.1038/s41598-023-49678-x
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