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 International Monetary Fund 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 has now 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 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.
—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.
Meanwhile, new research from Singapore published Wednesday showed that patients with the novel coronavirus extensively contaminate their bedrooms and bathrooms, underscoring the need to routinely clean high-touch surfaces, basins and toilet bowls.
The virus was, however, killed by twice-a-day cleaning of surfaces and daily cleaning of floors with a commonly used disinfectant—suggesting that current decontamination measures are sufficient as long as people adhere to them.
The research letter was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
This led scientists to believe that, beyond catching the infection through coughing, environmental contamination was an important factor in the disease’s transmission, but its extent was unclear.
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