Closing schools could increase coronavirus death toll, study suggests

Closing schools as part of a strict nationwide lockdown could increase the UK’s coronavirus death toll, researches have said.

A new study by Edinburgh University revisited work done by Imperial College London which suggested hundreds of thousands of Brits would die if no action was taken to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The study considered the impact of school closures on the country's infection rates, and found closures would reduce the spread, but increase the number of Covid-related deaths.

Researchers have now taken the study and reassessed it, with Edinburgh University concluding school closures would "result in more overall deaths."

Study authors wrote in the BMJ: "In the absence of an effective vaccine for Covid-19, school closures would result in more overall deaths than no school closures."

Both studies used a model called CovidSim, which models the UK using simulated people who move between homes, schools, workplaces, universities and hospitals.

It used 70 million people whose demographics, locations, and social behaviour was matched as closely as possible to those of people in the UK.

In their report, the Edinburgh team found prompt interventions were "high effective at reducing peak demand for intensive care unit beds" but also "prolong the epidemic."

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They wrote: "The findings of this study suggest that prompt interventions were shown to be highly effective at reducing peak demand for intensive care unit (ICU) beds but also prolong the epidemic, in some cases resulting in more deaths long-term.

"In the absence of an effective vaccination programme, none of the proposed mitigation strategies in the UK would reduce the predicted total number of deaths below 200,000."

The Edinburgh team said that, when interventions are lifted, a large proportion of the population remains susceptible and a substantial number are still infected.

It said: "This then leads to a second wave of infections that can result in more deaths, but later."

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