Evidence suggests that young children are less likely to contract COVID-19 and given the “safe” school reopening experiences in various countries prior to vaccine development, education systems do not need to wait for widespread vaccination before returning to offline schooling, according to the World Bank.

In a new policy note, the World Bank’s Education team has noted that the experiences from countries around the world where schools have reopened suggest that with adequate mitigation strategies, schools pose low risks for disease transmission among students, staff, and communities.

The team has also noted that one year after the pandemic hit, we know much more about both the virus and the disease and how to mitigate transmission and health authorities like the WHO recommend school closures only as a “last resort”.

“Available evidence suggests that young children are less likely to contract COVID-19, less likely to become seriously ill or die and less likely to transmit the disease to others. Transmission within schools has been low, particularly for pre-primary and primary schools, and staff in schools are more likely to get the virus from other staff, not from students,” the World Bank said.

“In particular, we need evidence for both students and school staff on their susceptibility of getting COVID-19 and the ease of transmitting the disease to others, and whether reopening schools contributes to the spread of COVID-19 within communities. Finally, we need to quantify the losses associated with school closures. A year and a half into the pandemic, such evidence is increasingly available, suggesting that the costs of school closures far exceed the risks associated with opening schools with adequate mitigation strategies in place,” it said.

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a global shut down of schools in more than 188 countries, leaving 1.6 billion children — 75 percent of enrolled students — out of school.

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