290 million students out of school as global virus battle intensifies

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Almost 300 million students worldwide faced weeks at home on Thursday 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, according to Agence France Presse (AFP).

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

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom reportedly 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 localized 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.

Some 120 schools closed in France this week.

Infections are now rising faster abroad than they are in China, where 31 more deaths and 139 new cases were reported Thursday. China's death toll now stands at 3,012, with over 80,000 infections.

Beijing is now concerned about importing cases, with 20 infections brought from abroad so far, including Italy and Iran prompting the capital to require people arriving from hard hit countries to go into self quarantine, AFP reported on March 5.

Source: Asia Plus