Coronavirus: Some 300 million students affected by school closures
PARIS: Almost 300 million students worldwide faced weeks at home yesterday as the authorities closed schools in more than a dozen countries in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Unesco said.
It has spread from China to some 80 nations, infecting over 95,000 people and causing the deaths of more than 3,200.
Italy, which has more than 3,000 infected, shut all schools and universities yesterday until at least March 15 and encouraged online teaching as it tried to slow the rate of contamination in Europe's worst-hit country.
"The global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education," said Ms Audrey Azoulay, director-general of Paris-based Unesco.
In a sign of how quickly the virus has spread, China, where the coronavirus outbreak originated, was two weeks ago the only country where school closures were mandated.
Unesco said on Wednesday that 13 countries have closed schools, affecting 290.5 million children, while 10 others have implemented localised closures.
Iran reported 15 new deaths from Covid-19, raising the national toll to 107, and said it would keep schools and universities closed until early next month.
Schools and universities will be closed until the end of the current Iranian year, Health Minister Saeed Namaki said.
The Iranian year ends on March 19 and national holidays then last until early April.
"People should not consider this as an opportunity to go travelling," Mr Namaki said. "They should stay home and take our warnings seriously."
South Korea - second to China in terms of infections with cases jumping past 6,000 yesterday - has postponed the start of the school term until March 23.
In Japan, nearly all schools are closed after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for classes to be cancelled through this month and spring break, slated for late this month through to early next month.
India yesterday shut all primary schools in its capital New Delhi until the end of the month. Delhi's deputy chief minister announced the closure in a tweet.
India's total confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 29 on Wednesday, from six early this week. - AFP, REUTERS