Coronavirus in schools.
Coronavirus in schools.

Why school closures may not stop virus

The focus on closing schools could actually have the opposite effect in terms of containing the virus, according to one expert who said such talk was unhelpful.

It comes as federal Education Minister Dan Tehan warned this week that schools may need to extend the Easter holidays break.

Closing schools would not helping contain the coronavirus because students were not required to self-isolate when they were sent home, public health expert Professor Paul Van Buynder said.

"What we are seeing is hordes of adolescents in Westfield malls catching up with each other, having a freebie day from school," he said.

This would allow any infected adolescents to spread the virus more widely through the community rather than contain it in a school where only younger people were likely to get infected, he said.



School closures may happen but they may do little.
School closures may happen but they may do little.


"I'm at a loss trying to explain what it is we are trying to do," he said.

Professor Van Buynder, a public health physician and former head of the Immunisation Coalition, said children were less likely to get coronavirus and were not super spreaders of the disease.

"In China among the first 50,000 people who got coronavirus only three per cent were children," he said.

One theory about why children were not infected or had only mild cases of coronavirus was that they had recently had other types of coronavirus which manifests as a mild common cold, he said.


For these reasons he said he believed the focus on closing schools during the coronavirus epidemic was not useful.

"There has been an unhealthy focus on schools when we should be focusing our efforts on aged care facilities," he said.

Most schools are now focusing on ensuring their secondary school learning can still be implemented online but many primary schools are struggling as they do not have the same resources. Students are likely to be supplied with additional 'homework packs' heading into the Easter holidays.