'Closing schools may made virus spread faster': Norway health agency

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'Closing schools may made virus spread faster': Norway health agency
Camilla Stoltenberg, director of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, opposed closing schools from the start. Photo: NordForsk/Terje Heiestad/Wikimedia Commons

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has suggested that closing schools for 11 to 16 year olds may have even increased the spread of coronavirus in Norway.


In its latest briefing note for the agency concludes that closing schools for fifth to the tenth class has had "a little or negative effect on reducing infection", while closing kindergartens and schools for younger pupils both had only a "little effect". 
Camilla Stoltenberg, the institute's director, on Thursday night told Norway's state broadcaster NRK that the agency suspected elder school pupils were more likely to spread coronavirus if kept at home. 
"When children of that age are at home for a long time, it is difficult to control what they do," she said. "Compared to being in school, which has more structure, they are likely to begin to behave in ways that can contribute to more spread of infection than they otherwise would have done." 
But she conceded that there as yet no research had been done to back up this theory. 
She reiterated that her agency had never recommended that Norway's government close schools. 
"We didn't recommend it. What we thought should have been done was to introduce infection protection measures in schools. But again, that being said, there is a weak scientific backing." 
On April 21, the institute said "New publications support the idea that children's role in the spread of infection is limited," while recommending reopening schools. 


Espen Rostrup Nakstad at Norway's Directorate of Health, who has been the main figurehead of the country's 'knock-down' strategy towards the virus, said the jury was still out on the role of children in spreading the virus. 
"There is very little research which suggests that children and schools contribute significacntly to the spread of SARS-CoV-2, and there is very little research to suggest that they do not contribute to such a spread," he said. 


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