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School Closure and Management Practices During Coronavirus Outbreaks Including COVID-19: A Rapid Narrative Systematic Review

17 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2020

See all articles by Russell Viner

Russell Viner

University College London - Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health

Simon Russell

University College London - Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health

Helen Croker

University College London - Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health

Jessica Packer

University College London - Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health

Joseph Ward

University College London - Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health

Claire Stansfield

University College London - UCL Institute of Education

Oliver Mytton

University of Cambridge

Robert Booy

University of Sydney - National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance

More...

Abstract

Background: COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO on 12 March 2020 and UNESCO reported that day that 49 countries had implemented national or subnational school closures. Evidence for the effectiveness for school closures comes almost entirely from influenza outbreaks, where transmission tends to be driven by children. It is unknown whether school measures are effective in coronavirus outbreaks e.g. due to SARS, or MERS and COVID-19.

Methods: We undertook a rapid systematic review of 2 electronic databases and a preprint server to identify what is known about the effectiveness of school closure and other social school social distancing practices on infection during coronavirus outbreaks.

Results: We identified 498 articles, of which 13 are included in this review (9 published; 4 preprint articles considered sufficient quality to include). All published papers concerned the 2003 SARS outbreak and 3 preprints concerned COVID-19. School closures were deployed rapidly across China and Hong Kong for COVID-19, however there are no data on the relative contribution of school closure to control of transmission. Data from the SARS outbreak in China, Hong Kong and Singapore suggest that school transmission played no significant role in the outbreak and that school closures did not contribute to control of the epidemic. Modelling studies of SARS produced conflicting results.

Conclusions: Available evidence is consistent with a broad range of impacts of school closures, from little benefit for reducing transmission through to more substantial effects. Yet the economic costs and potential harms of school closure are very high. Data from influenza outbreaks suggests that school closures have low benefits in outbreaks with high transmissibility as with COVID-19. Policymakers need to be aware of the equivocal evidence when proposing or implementing school closures for COVID-19, and consideration should be given to other less disruptive social distancing interventions in schools.

Funding Statement: No funding was received for these analyses.

Declaration of Interests: All authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.

Keywords: COVID-19; school; school closure; child; infection; social distancing

Suggested Citation

Viner, Russell and Russell, Simon and Croker, Helen and Packer, Jessica and Ward, Joseph and Stansfield, Claire and Mytton, Oliver and Booy, Robert, School Closure and Management Practices During Coronavirus Outbreaks Including COVID-19: A Rapid Narrative Systematic Review (3/14/2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3556648 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3556648

Russell Viner (Contact Author)

University College London - Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health ( email )

30 Guilford Street
London, England WC1N 1EH
United Kingdom

Simon Russell

University College London - Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health

30 Guilford Street
London, England WC1N 1EH
United Kingdom

Helen Croker

University College London - Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health

30 Guilford Street
London, England WC1N 1EH
United Kingdom

Jessica Packer

University College London - Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health

30 Guilford Street
London, England WC1N 1EH
United Kingdom

Joseph Ward

University College London - Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health

30 Guilford Street
London, England WC1N 1EH
United Kingdom

Claire Stansfield

University College London - UCL Institute of Education

20 Bedford Way
London, WC1H 0AL
United Kingdom

Oliver Mytton

University of Cambridge

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

Robert Booy

University of Sydney - National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance

Australia

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