- UN chief says over 1 billion students have missed out on school due to pandemic.
- Australia’s Victoria state introduces tougher fines for people who break quarantine.
- New study suggests a tiny fraction of Ontario has been infected with COVID-19.
- France’s top scientific body said a second wave was “highly likely” this autumn or winter.
- WHO interviews Wuhan scientists over virus origins
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday the coronavirus pandemic has led to the largest disruption of education in history, with schools closed in more than 160 countries in mid-July, affecting over one billion students.
In addition, the UN chief said at least 40 million children worldwide have missed out on education “in their critical preschool year.”
As a result, Guterres warned that the world faces “a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities.”
Even before the pandemic, Guterres said, the world faced “a learning crisis,” with more than 250 million children out of school, and only a quarter of secondary school youngsters in developing countries leaving school “with basic skills.”
According to a global projection covering 180 countries by the UN education agency UNESCO and partner organizations, some 23.8 million additional children and youths from pre-primary school to university level are at risk of dropping out or not having access to school next year due to the pandemic’s economic impact.
“We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people,” Guterres said in a video message and a 26-page policy briefing. “The decisions that governments and partners take now will have lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people, and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come.”
According to the policy briefing, “the unparalleled education disruption” from the pandemic is far from over and as many as 100 countries have not yet announced a date for schools to reopen.
Guterres called for action in four key areas, the first being reopening schools.
“Once local transmission of COVID-19 is under control,” he said, “getting students back into schools and learning institutions as safely as possible must be a top priority.”
UNESCO’s assistant director general for education Stefania Giannini told reporters the Paris-based agency plans to hold a high-level virtual meeting in the fall, likely during the second half of October, to secure commitments from world leaders and the international community to place education at the forefront of recovery agendas from the pandemic.
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“There may be economic trade-offs, but the longer schools remain closed the more devastating the impact, especially on the poorest and most vulnerable children,” Giannini warned.
She stressed that schools are not only for learning but provide social protection and nutrition, especially for vulnerable youngsters.
The coronavirus crisis has amplified digital, social and gender inequalities, Giannini said, with girls, refugees, and youngsters with disabilities, who are displaced or are in rural areas the most vulnerable and facing limited opportunities to continue their learning.
Before the pandemic, low- and middle-income countries faced an education funding gap of $1.5 trillion annually, Guterres said, and the gap in education financing globally could increase by 30 per cent because of the pandemic.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 7 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had 117,031 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 101,595 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,986.
A new study by Public Health Ontario suggests that the number of people who have been infected by COVID-19 in the province has been a tiny fraction of its total population.
The study, entitled “COVID-19 Seroprevalence in Ontario: March 27, 2020 to June 30, 2020,” measured the presence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in blood test samples of people across the province. Public Health Ontario is the province’s public health agency.
From June 5 to 30, the study found 1.1 per cent of the samples were positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
Medical experts say the finding suggests the actual number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario was likely four times higher in June than the official case count.
Dr. Dominik Mertz, associate professor in the division of infectious diseases of the department of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, said the study shows that people in the province remain at risk of catching the infectious disease.
“Whether it’s one or two per cent or three per cent, it doesn’t really matter in terms of protection,” Mertz told CBC Toronto.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases was over 18.2 million as of 7 a.m. ET on Tuesday. More than 694,230 people have died, while almost 10.9 million have recovered. The U.S. and Brazil lead case numbers, with a combined total of more than 4.8 million.
In Europe, the United Kingdom faces a second wave of COVID-19 this winter twice as widespread as the initial outbreak if it reopens schools without a more effective test-and-trace system in place, according to a study published on Tuesday.
Researchers from University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine modelled the impact of reopening schools either on a full- or part-time basis, thus allowing parents to return to work, on the potential spread of the virus. They concluded a second wave could be prevented if 75 per cent of those with symptoms were found and tested and 68 per cent of their contacts were traced.
France’s top scientific body also said a second wave was “highly likely” this autumn or winter as the country grapples with a marked increase of new cases of the disease over the past two weeks.
“France has the situation under control but it is precarious with a surge of virus circulation this summer. The short-term future of the pandemic mainly lies in the hands of the population,” the scientific committee on the disease said in a statement published on the Health Ministry’s website.
Poland on Tuesday reported its fourth record daily increase in coronavirus cases in a week, with more than 30 per cent of cases coming from the Silesia region in the south, which has been grappling with another outbreak among coal miners.
The daily record, with 680 new infections and six deaths, comes as Poland considers introducing stricter restrictions, including mandatory testing for travellers returning to Poland and quarantine for those coming from certain countries. More than 220 cases were reported in Silesia.
Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state has banned people who should be self-isolating from exercising outside their homes and introduced tougher fines for people infected with the coronavirus who continue to go to work.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said that military and health teams would repeatedly and randomly door-knock homes to ensure people who should be self-isolating were at home. Teams had door-knocked more than 3,000 homes and could not find more than 800 people who should have been home because they were awaiting a test result or had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The government has also increased the fine for failing to self-isolate from $1,652 Aus ($1,578 Cdn) to $4,957 Aus ($4,737 Cdn). The most serious cases could also be taken to court and fined up to $20,000 Aus ($19,116 Cdn), Andrews said.
Both mainland China and Hong Kong reported fewer new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday as strict measures to contain new infections appear to be having an effect.
China announced 36 new cases across the country, down from 43 the previous day. Of those, 28 were in the northwestern region of Xinjiang and two in Liaoning province in the northeast.
Another six cases were brought by Chinese arriving from overseas. No new deaths were registered, leaving China’s total at 4,634 among 84,634 cases reported since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
Hong Kong reported 78 new cases over the previous 24 hours, the first time in almost two weeks that new cases had fallen into double-digits.
Authorities in the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city ordered mask-wearing in public places, restrictions on indoor dining and increased testing to contain the outbreak.
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A WHO team, which was also in China to probe the origins of the novel coronavirus, had “extensive discussions” and exchanges with scientists in Wuhan where the outbreak was first detected, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.
The talks included updates on animal health research, the spokesperson said. China shut down a wildlife market in Wuhan at the start of the outbreak, a day after discovering some patients were vendors or dealers.
The WHO says the virus most likely came from bats and probably had another, intermediary animal “host.”