The World Forum - April 24th, 2024

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School closures in Japan had no effect on slowing spread of COVID-19, study finds


'We do not find any evidence that school closures in Japan reduced the spread of COVID-19,' researchers said.

School closures in Japan during the spring 2020 outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic had no effect on slowing the spread of the virus, a new study has found.

In February last year, the Japanese government requested that elementary, middle, and high schools across the country temporarily close. Some municipalities implemented the closures, while others did not. 

A team of researchers from Harvard University, Gakushuin University, and Shizuoka University have published a new study in Nature Medicine that examines 847 municipalities in Japan and compares the number of new COVID-19 cases per population among the municipalities that closed schools with the municipalities that did not close between March and June 2020.

The researchers found that the effect school closures had on slowing the spread was "not significantly different from zero."

"We do not find any evidence that school closures in Japan reduced the spread of COVID-19," they wrote. "Our null results suggest that policies on school closures should be reexamined given the potential negative consequences for children and parents."

The researches argued that policymakers should be "cautious" when considering school closures moving forward because of the "substantial costs such policies can have for the well-being of both children and parents."