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Low prevalence of current and past SARS-CoV-2 infections among visitors and staff members of homelessness services in Amsterdam at the end of the second wave of infections in the Netherlands.

Generaal E, van Santen DKD, Campman SL, Booij MJ, Price D, Buster M, van Dijk C, Boyd A, Bruisten SM, van Dam AP, van der Lubben M, van Duijnhoven YTHP, Prins M

  • Journal PloS one

  • Published 25 Jul 2023

  • Volume 18

  • ISSUE 7

  • Pagination e0288610

  • DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0288610


People experiencing homelessness (PEH) may be at increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and severe COVID-19. The Dutch government established emergency shelters and introduced preventive measures for homelessness services. There were no major SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks noticed among PEH during the first two waves of infections. This study aimed to assess the prevalence of current and past infections among PEH and staff by conducting an on-site COVID-19 screening project at homelessness services in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

We assessed the proportion of visitors and staff members of four homelessness services at two locations in Amsterdam with positive SARS-CoV-2 qPCR and antibody results (IgG/IgM Rapid Test/Biozek) in May 2021. We also assessed sociodemographic, clinical and lifestyle characteristics, compliance with basic prevention measures and intention to vaccinate against COVID-19 among PEH and staff.

A total of 138 visitors and 53 staff members filled out a questionnaire and were tested. Among PEH, the SARS-CoV-2 positivity rate was 0% (0/133;95%CI = 0-1.9) and the antibody positivity rate was 1.6% (2/131;95%CI = 0.8-7.5) among those without prior COVID-19 vaccination. Among staff, these percentages were 3% (1/32;95%CI = 0.1-16.2) and 11% (5/53;95%CI = 3.6-23.6), respectively. Most participants were often compliant with the basic preventive measures 'not shaking hands', 'wearing a face mask' and 'washing hands', but not with 'physical distancing'. High vaccination intent was more common among staff members (55%) than among visitors (42%), while high trust in the governmental COVID-19 policies was more common among visitors (41%) than among staff (30%).

We observed a low prevalence of past and current SARS-CoV-2 infections among PEH, which may be explained by instated shelter policies, limited daily activities of PEH and compliance with prevention measures. Vaccine hesitancy and mistrust among visitors and staff could hinder vaccination uptake, suggesting that interventions towards homelessness services are needed.