Debates Around the Role of School Closures in the Coronavirus 2019 Pandemic | JAMA Pediatrics | JAMA Network
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Comment & Response
August 31, 2020

Debates Around the Role of School Closures in the Coronavirus 2019 Pandemic

Author Affiliations
  • 1University College London Medical School, London, England
  • 2West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Hertfordshire, England
JAMA Pediatr. 2021;175(1):106. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.3601

To the Editor: We read with great interest the article by Esposito and Principi,1 who expressed skepticism as to whether school closure is an effective measure in mitigating the spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It was interesting to read that Taiwan successfully slowed the spread of SARS-CoV-2 without school closure. Additionally, they highlighted that school closure had no significant effect on the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in China. Other countries, such Japan, Israel, Denmark, and Norway, also closed their schools in an attempt to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Interestingly, Denmark and Norway reopened their schools in April 2020 and have continued to see a decline in the number of new infections as of May 2020.2

Denmark was one of the first countries to close schools and enforced school closure on March 11, 2020, with 262 confirmed coronavirus cases. After several weeks of closure, the Danish government reopened schools for young children on April 15, 2020.2 In this period, the number of cases rose by 6249 to 6511 cases over a period of 35 days. As of May 25, 2020, the number of cases in Denmark stands at 11 360, a rise of 4849 cases in 40 days.3 Thus, in a longer period with schools reopened, Denmark has seen fewer new cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection than when schools were closed.

Norway was another country to close all educational institutions early, doing so on March 12, 2020, with 489 total confirmed cases.3,4 Norway began reopening kindergartens on April 20, 2020, and junior schools on April 27.5 Between March 12 and April 27, there was a rise of 7016 cases to a total of 7505. Since reopening primary schools, there have been just 804 new cases in Norway between April 27, 2020, and May 25, 2020, over 29 days.3 As in Denmark, Norway has seen a huge decrease in the number of new cases while schools reopen.

The reopening of schools is extremely important because children depend on schools for normal social and intellectual development. The decrease in new cases in Denmark and Norway as their schools reopen is a very encouraging sign. However, it would be nonetheless prudent to continuously monitor the number of new cases as schools reopen across the world.

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Shuliang Oliver Cheng, BSc, University College London Medical School, 74 Huntley St, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 6DE, England (oliver.cheng.15@ucl.ac.uk).

Published Online: August 31, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.3601

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

References
1.
Esposito  S, Principi  N.  School closure during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic: an effective intervention at the global level?   JAMA Pediatr. Published online May 13, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.1892PubMedGoogle Scholar
2.
Vogel  G, Couzin-Frankel  J. Should schools reopen? kids’ role in pandemic still a mystery. Science. Published 2020. Accessed July 29, 2020. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/should-schools-reopen-kids-role-pandemic-still-mystery.
3.
World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) situation reports. Published 2020. Accessed July 29, 2020. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports
4.
Norway shuts all schools and universities to fight coronavirus pandemic. The Local No. Published 2020. Accessed July 29, 2020. https://www.thelocal.no/20200312/norway-shuts-all-schools-and-universities-to-fight-coronavirus-pandemic.
5.
Coronavirus  BBC.: why Denmark is taking steps to open up again. BBC. Published 2020. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-52226763.
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