*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on MedicalXpress.
School closures do not appear to have a significant effect on the spread of infections during coronavirus outbreaks such as COVID-19 but will be crucial to how we restart society after lockdown, according to a new study led by UCL.
The systematic review published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health is the first study to look at the evidence and emerging data on the benefit of school closures and other school social distancing interventions in outbreaks such as SARS, MERS, and COVID-19.
The international research team reviewed 16 studies, which included nine peer-reviewed papers on the 2003 SARS outbreak, one preprint on previous coronavirus transmission and five preprints and one report on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data collected from the SARS epidemic did not generally support a role for school closures; one modeling pre-print showed that school closure, as an isolated measure, was predicted to reduce total deaths by only around 2-4% during a COVID-19 outbreak in the UK.
The study highlights that data from influenza outbreaks, which show benefits of school closures, cannot necessarily be applied to coronaviruses and that school closures have only small effects in infections with a high reproductive number, such as COVID-19, where children are not the main drivers of infection.
At the time the study was written on 18 March 2020, 107 countries had implemented national school closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The reviews find that data from the SARS outbreak in China, Hong Kong, and Singapore suggest that school closures did not contribute to control of the epidemic and modeling studies of SARS produced conflicting results.