"Unparalleled Disruption": 290 Million Students Around The World Face Weeks At Home

Nearly 300 million students worldwide are enjoying an unexpected vacation as they face weeks at home, with Italy the latest country to shut schools over the deadly new coronavirus. According to Unesco, 290.5 million children in 13 countries were affected, while a further nine nations have implemented localised closures, the SCMP reported.

"The global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education.” Unesco chief Audrey Azoulay said.

On Wednesday, Italy ordered schools and universities closed 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 current term until March 23.

In Hong Kong schools are closed until at least April 20, while 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 in areas with the largest numbers of infections. In Germany, the health minister said the outbreak was now a “global pandemic” – a term the World Health Organisation has stopped short of using – meaning the virus is spreading in several regions through local transmission.