INTERNATIONAL

Virus leaves 290 mn students out of school

Education at risk:Officials checking the temperature of students before letting them enter a school in Tangerang, Indonesia, on Thursday.AFPDEMY SANJAYA

Education at risk:Officials checking the temperature of students before letting them enter a school in Tangerang, Indonesia, on Thursday.AFPDEMY SANJAYA  

UNESCO says the outbreak’s global scale and speed of educational disruption is unparalleled

Almost 300 million students worldwide faced weeks at home with Italy and India the latest to shut schools over COVID-19 outbreak, as the IMF urged an all-out global offensive against the epidemic.

More than 95,000 people have been infected and over 3,200 have died worldwide from the virus, which by Thursday had reached more than 80 countries and territories.

The U.S. State of California declared an emergency following its first fatality — raising the U.S. death toll to 11 — and a cruise ship was kept offshore after passengers and crew members developed symptoms.

Switzerland reported its first death from the outbreak on Thursday, while Bosnia and South Africa confirmed their first cases and Greece’s cases surged after 21 travellers recently returned from a bus trip to Israel and Egypt tested positive for the virus.

Most 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.

But it has quickly spread beyond China’s borders.

Several countries have implemented extraordinary measures, with UNESCO saying on Wednesday that school closures in more than a dozen countries have affected 290.5 million children.

In India, all primary schools in New Delhi will remain closed until the end of March to prevent the virus from spreading.

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 shut until March 15, ramping up its response as national fatalities rose to 148.

South Korea — second to China in terms of infections with cases jumping past 6,000 on Thursday — has postponed the start of the next term until March 23.

In Japan, nearly all schools are closed after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for classes to be cancelled until early April.

Schools have also shut in Iran, where 107 people have died from the disease — alongside Italy, the deadliest outbreak outside China.

Beijing is now concerned about importing cases, with 20 infections brought from abroad so far.

No kissing

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

New measures in Italy — where 11 towns with 50,000 have been under quarantine — include a month-long nationwide ban on fan attendance at sports events, and advising people to avoid greetings like kissing on the cheek or shaking hands.

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