School closures were unnecessary and harmful to students

The review, due to be published Thursday, was funded by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation, the Minderoo Foundation and the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

It notes that school closures were the right decision early in the pandemic, when little was known about the spread of COVID-19.

But forcing children to study from home was the wrong move when it became clear that schools are not high-transmission environments and the decision is likely to affect children’s education, social development and mental health.

“For children and parents [particularly women]”We have failed to strike the right balance between protecting health and imposing long-term costs on education, mental health, the economy and work outcomes,” the report said.

“The same applies to the closure of universities and vocational training centers.”

Mr Shergold said there was never much evidence children were likely to contract severe COVID-19 infection.

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“So if we were to give governments advice now, it would be to only close school systems when there is clear and unambiguous evidence that these are children and teachers who are likely to become seriously ill with COVID,” he said The Australian Financial Report.

About 60 per cent of parents say the closure of secondary schools has affected their children, according to the NSW Mental Health Commission.

The report finds that school closures have been particularly hard on the most disadvantaged students, who often lack internet access or parents who could act as “quasi-teachers”.

Too few vaccine doses

Students in the bottom 20 percent of the socioeconomic ladder were more than 40 times less likely to have a computer than students in the top 20 percent.

Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States had signed deals with six vaccine manufacturers by September 2020, while Australia was focused on two candidates including AstraZeneca’s vaccine by November 2020.

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“When the two initial vaccines ran into problems, we were left with too few vaccine doses to vaccinate our population quickly,” the report said.

Governments over-relied on lockdowns as their main public health response, while the health advice they sought was often narrow and failed to take into account broader social impacts, including on vulnerable people.

lack of empathy

The enforcement of lockdowns was also inconsistent and sometimes lacking in empathy.

“Business people were often allowed to travel across borders, while those wishing to visit dying loved ones or newborn family members did not have a similar opportunity,” the report said.

“Travel across state lines was allowed for professional sports stars, but not for those requiring medical care.”

The review also found that economic support packages were not distributed fairly.

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The authors highlight the decision to exclude temporary migrants and international students from JobKeeper and JobSeeker, which left 2.4 million residents in dire financial straits and fostered a sense of abandonment.

“Over time, some 500,000 followed government advice and left the country, but personal circumstances, strained finances and the collapse of global air travel prevented most from doing so.”

The lack of a clawback mechanism in JobKeeper was a “significant design flaw” as more than 20,000 companies that received JobKeeper tripled their profits during the pandemic while amassing $370 million in tax-funded subsidies.

Professor Shergold said policymakers need to give more weight to conditions for disadvantaged Australians.

“To be better prepared for the next health crisis, we need to put vulnerable Australians at the heart of our planning. This is at the heart of our recommendations,” he said.


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