James O'Brien discovers why school closures aren't a good idea

16 March 2020, 13:51

By Seán Hickey

Across Europe schools are closing as a coronavirus precaution, but some professionals have been skeptical of the benefits of doing so.

James O'Brien was joined by Professor Jonathan Carapetis who is the director of Telethon Kids Institute and a paediatrician in Perth, where schools have remained open in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Put simply Professor Carapetis explained that as things stand in Australia right now "up to 20% of people would be taken out of the workforce if schools were to close" and compared these stats to what could happen in the UK should the same measures be taken.

Speaking on the evidence that it can be beneficial to quell the spread of coronavirus by closing schools, the paediatrician stated that "it's not convincing yet".

James agreed, pointing out that children oftentimes catch viruses "and recover from it without knowing they were ill at all"

Mr. Carapetis insisted that "we're going to make a major dent in transition in the community" should any drastic measures be taken too early.

School closures have come under the spotlight for their effectiveness
School closures have come under the spotlight for their effectiveness. Picture: PA

James pointed out that "there's nothing wrong with a parent doing it autonomously" as acting in small instances may soften the snowball effect of closing down the education system.

Professor Carapetis warned that it is still a risky business to take children out of school at this time mainly due to the fact that "they're often cared for by grandparents who are at the highest risk".

Crunching the numbers, he outlined the potential effect on the healthcare system. "The hospitals here are looking at around 10 and 30% of health workforce could be forced out of their jobs" if their children were sent home from school because of mass closures.

Professor Carapetis concluded that "if they close the schools they've no idea how they're going to manage the onslaught of people that will come into their healthcare system".