The closing of schools had the biggest impact in slowing the spread of Covid-19 in Europe, according to research from the UEA.

Researchers from the Norwich-based university found that closing schools, prohibiting mass gatherings and the closure of some non-essential business were the most effective methods of controlling the virus.

The study looked at the success of different social distancing measures across 30 European countries, and the university are now hoping that the findings will help to shape how the UK eventually comes out of lockdown.

According to the research, closing schools across Europe was the most effective intervention for bringing the virus under control.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Sunday that primary schools for some age groups could re-open as early as June 1, with reception, Year 1 and Year 6 the first to return.

Classrooms have been empty since March. Credit: ITV News Anglia

“Our study shows that school closures in Europe had the greatest association with a subsequent reduction in the spread of the disease," Lead researcher Prof Paul Hunter said.

“But this study does not resolve the lack of consensus about whether children can pass Covid-19 to adults. And it does not identify which level of school closure has the most impact whether it is primary, junior, senior school or even higher education.

“It’s also important to remember that our results are based on total closure, so it is possible that partial school closures could have worthwhile impacts on the spread of infection.”

The analysis also found that banning mass gatherings, such as music festivals and sporting events, had a big impact, as did closing some businesses like pubs and restaurants where people congregate.

People are being urged to wear face masks in public in some European countries. Credit: PA

However, researchers also found that stay-home policies didn't work and the number of cases actually went up as the number of lockdown days increased.

The wearing of face masks didn't make a difference either, although the study did acknowledge that the results are "too preliminary" to form any concrete advice.

“The use of face coverings initially seems to have had a protective effect. However, after day 15 of the face covering advisories or requirements, we saw that the number of cases started to rise – with a similar pattern for the number of deaths," Dr Julii Brainard from the UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said.

“Face coverings may even be associated with increased risk, but the data quality for this is very uncertain.

“The results on face coverings are too preliminary to reliably inform policy, but what results are available do not support their widespread use in the community."

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