290M students out of school as global virus battle intensifies | Inquirer News

290M students out of school as global virus battle intensifies

/ 05:34 AM March 06, 2020

HARD LESSON Students wearing medical masks amid fears of the spread of the newcoronavirus work in a coffee shop in Bangkok on Tuesday. Unesco on Wednesday said 13 countries had closed schools, affecting 290.5 million children, while nine others have implemented localized closures. —AFP

ROME—Almost 300 million students worldwide faced weeks at home on Thursday with Italy the latest country to shut schools over the deadly new coronavirus.

More than 95,000 people have been infected and over 3,200 have died worldwide from the virus, which has now reached some 80 countries and territories.


The vast majority of global deaths and infections are in China, where the virus first emerged late last year, prompting the country to quarantine entire cities, temporarily shut factories and close schools indefinitely.


As the virus spread, other countries have also implemented extraordinary measures, with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) saying on Wednesday that 13 countries have closed schools, affecting 290.5 million children, while nine others have implemented localized closures.

Right to education

While temporary school closures during crises are not new, Unesco chief Audrey Azoulay said “the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education.”

Italy on Wednesday ordered schools and universities shuttered until March 15, ramping up its response as the national death toll rose to 107, the deadliest outbreak outside China.

South Korea, the country with the largest number of cases outside China with nearly 6,000, has postponed the start of the current term until March 23.

In Japan, nearly all schools are closed after Prime Minis­ter Shinzo Abe called for classes to be canceled through March and spring break, slated for late March through early April.

Some 120 schools closed in France this week in areas with the largest numbers of infections.


As the virus continues its march across the world, governments are scrambling to tighten prevention efforts.

Italy has seen its outbreak swell despite tough measures, including a quarantine of 11 towns with 50,000 people. New measures include a monthlong nationwide ban on fan attendance at sports events, as well as advising people to avoid greetings like kissing on the cheek or shaking hands.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti said the country could tackle the outbreak as long as it remained contained.

“But in case of exponential growth, not just Italy but any other country in the world would not be able to manage the situation,” he said.

In Iran, where 92 people have died from the disease, schools have been shut and major cultural and sporting events suspended.

Saudi Arabia has suspended the year-round “umrah” pilgrimage, an unprecedented move that raises fresh uncertainty over the annual hajj.

Setback for James Bond

Countries also continue to crack down on international travel.

Israel extended its mandatory quarantine measures already in place for travelers from Italy and some Asian countries to cover people from France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Switzerland.

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Even cinemagoers were not immune from the effects of the virus. The producers of the latest James Bond film pushed back the release of the forthcoming “No Time To Die” from April to November.

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TAGS: China, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Italy, Outbreak, school break, Students, Wuhan

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