The newly released Australian modelling combined with international data supports the Victorian Government’s move to allow limited numbers of children to return to classrooms, say researchers from Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI).
The researchers from the Centre for Community Child Health at MCRI say they are well positioned to measure the impact of remote learning and physical school attendance on COVID-19 community transmission and children’s social and physical health and wellbeing. The MCRI team is adapting current long-running studies of children and adolescents to form a ‘virtual observatory’ of the constellation of psychosocial and economic effects to inform further policy.
This will include follow-up studies of both children and healthcare workers presenting to hospital, or admitted for, COVID-19.
The pair head the Institute’s newly formed observatory of community studies from the hospital and existing cohorts into COVID-19 and children, and have welcomed the release of the modelling used by the Department of Health to inform its COVID-19 strategic response.
“The modelling released yesterday clearly shows that physical distancing, testing and quarantining suspected and confirmed cases works,” said Associate Professor Danchin.
In addition to the Australian modelling, a systematic review of 16 international studies published in The Lancet by researchers from University College in London has shown that allowing children to physically attend school would only prevent two to four per cent of COVID-19 deaths, which in turn has a case fatality rate of 0.7 to one per cent in Australia.
Professor Goldfeld said, “By combining the international data on allowing kids to physically attend school with the Australian COVID-19 modelling, we can reassure parents and teachers that the graded reintroduction of kids into classrooms poses minimal additional risk to community transmission of the virus.”
“It will also be vitally important how we communicate the easing of restrictions to families and the community so they can clearly understand what is being asked of them and why,” said Professor Goldfeld.
“We are already running the most longitudinal studies of children’s health in Australia, observing the effects of things like diet and lifestyle on children’s physical and mental health and the effect of socioeconomic status on educational attainment.
“We are repurposing these studies to observe the constellation of effects of this unprecedented pandemic in the modern era.”
Publications under comment:
Doherty Institute: Modelling the impact of COVID-19 in Australia to inform transmission reducing measures and health system preparedness. (manuscript not submitted for peer-review). Moss R, Wood J, Brown D, Shearer F, Black AJ, Cheng AC, McCaw JM, McVernon J.
University College London: School closure and management practices during coronavirus outbreaks including COVID-19: a rapid systematic review. The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health. Russell M Viner, Simon J Russell, Helen Croker, Jessica Packer, Joseph Ward, Claire Stansfield, Oliver Mytton, Chris Bonell, Prof Robert Booy. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30095-X
Available for interview:
Professor Sharon Goldfeld, Head of Population Health, Director of the Centre of Community & Child Health
Associate Professor Margie Danchin, Group Leader of the Vaccine acceptance, Uptake and Policy Group, MCRI