If a new study coming out of Japan is to be believed, many countries across the world may need to change their strategies for combatting COVID-19.
A team of researchers from Harvard University in Massachusetts, Gakushuin University in Tokyo and Shizuoka University in Shizuoka compared Japanese municipalities that closed down their school systems in spring of 2020 to those that did not, according to study published in Nature Medicine.
The team of researchers conducted the study by examining 847 municipalities in Tokyo and Osaka.
As it turns out, the shutdown of schools did not prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus during the first wave of the pandemic, their study found.
In fact, the number of COVID cases per 100,000 people between the two groups of municipalities remained exactly the same, regardless of whether or not schools were shut down.
“We do not find any evidence that school closures in Japan reduced the spread of COVID-19,” one of the study’s authors wrote.
“Our null results suggest that policies on school closures should be re-examined given the potential negative consequences for children and parents.”
“School closures reduce children’s learning opportunities, negatively affect their physical and mental development and make it difficult for their parents to leave for work in the daytime,” co-researcher Dr Kentaro Fukumoto said, according to the Daily Mail UK.
“The central government should carefully consider whether to ask schools to close in the future.”
This news may come as a shock to many public health experts around the world.
This includes those in the U.S., many of whom have repeatedly called for school shutdowns since the COVID pandemic began.
The Center for Disease Control even went as far as to create a guide for “considerations for school closures” as a method for stemming the spread of COVID.
While the plan did advise against closing schools “early in the spread of a disease,” it did maintain that “waiting to enact school closures until at the correct time in the epidemic” would prove helpful in slowing COVID-19’s spread.
NIAID Director Anthony Fauci has also supported the closure of schools in the past.
In July of 2020, Fauci said that “It’s been shown that children from 10 to 19 can transmit the virus to adults as well as adults can,” according to CNBC.
While acknowledging that keeping students at home can create “negative consequences,” Fauci further said that schools should nevertheless close down at certain times.
“When you get to the real hot zones, I think you’re going to have to take a really good look and examine the advisability or not,” Fauci said.
“What likely would happen is that you would have parents that don’t want to send their children to school or you’re going to have teachers that not going to want to be there.”
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