Almost 300 million students worldwide faced weeks at home with Italy the latest country to shut schools over the deadly new coronavirus, 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 some 80 countries and territories.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom declared an emergency following the state’s first coronavirus fatality — raising the US death toll to 11 — and a cruise ship was kept offshore after passengers and crew members developed symptoms.
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 has spread, other countries have also implemented extraordinary measures, with UNESCO saying Wednesday that 13 countries have closed schools, affecting 290.5 million children, while nine others have implemented localised closures.
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 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 next term until March 23.
In Japan, nearly all schools are closed after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for classes to be cancelled through March and spring break, slated for late March through early April.
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