Coronavirus: Closing schools is unnecessary, research suggests

8 April 2020, 13:53

By Fiona Jones

This child health expert explained why closing schools for long periods isn't effective in stopping the spread of the virus.

Professor of Child Health Russell Viner and his team started the research because they thought closing schools all around the world should be based on evidence.

They looked at Covid-19's virus cousin, SARS, and found that "school closures appear to play only a relatively small role in controlling this epidemic."

Mr Viner explained we have assumed school closures play a big role in controlling an outbreak and most of this assumption comes from previous experience with influenza outbreaks, where children are "big transmitters."

However the characteristics of Covid-19 means children may not have a similar impact in spreading.

"When you're in a very difficult situation like the UK is at the moment, of course you should do everything you can in social distancing and this includes schools," Mr Viner said, "the evidence is that closing schools as part of doing everything else does contribute."

He says the important thing from this reserach is "when we start to step away from this lockdown...we need to think carefully about how we reopen schools. We suggest potentially early in that lockdown rather than late.

"What we'd like to push is the idea that we open schools with social distancing in place."

Nick questioned how this can happen in a packed classroom.

Professor Viner suggested having half the students in the morning and half in the afternoon, and stagger the time each year starts, has breaks and finish so that the years don't meet.

"Our evidence suggests that maintaining a full school lockdown for a long period may not contribute that much."