When the new coronavirus reared its head in Canada and the world, forcing wide-ranging closures, schools were some of the early casualties.

While data on the effects of school closures during COVID-19 are limited and still underway, some researchers say evidence from influenza outbreaks and SARS suggest these closures may only have only a small impact on the spread of a virus.

More than 107 countries had implemented national school closures as of March 18, Canada included. It affects approximately 862 million children and young people, roughly half of the global student population, according to researchers at the University College London (UCL).

Their research, published April 6 in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, reviewed 16 previously published studies. Some of the studies looked at the seasonal flu and others the SARS outbreak of 2003.

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The findings suggest the benefit of school closures in the coronavirus outbreak will likely be small. During the SARS outbreak in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, the researchers claim school closures “did not contribute to the control of the epidemic.”

However, in a flu outbreak,