World

Ten million children may never return to school after Covid-19 pandemic: Charity

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused an “unprecedented education emergency” with up to 9.7 million children affected by school closures at risk of never going back to class, Save the Children warned on Monday as global cases hit a new grim milestone of 13mn.

The British charity said 1.6 billion young people, or about 90% of the world’s student population, were shut out of school and university due to measures to contain Covid-19 in April. “For the first time in human history, an entire generation of children globally have had their education disrupted,” it said in the report, Save our Education.

Te economic fallout of the crisis could force an extra 90 to 117 mn children into poverty, with a knock-on effect on school admissions. With many young people required to work, or girls forced into early marriage to support their families, this could see between seven and 9.7mn children dropping out of school permanently. The charity warned the crisis could leave a shortfall of $77bn in education budgets in low and middle income countries by the end of 2021.

The United Nations, meanwhile, said in a report on Monday that the world’s hungry grew by 10mn last year and warned that the pandemic could push as many as 130mn more people into chronic hunger this year. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report noted the pandemic may add up to 132mn people to the ranks of the undernourished in 2020.

The head of the World Health Organization warned the pandemic is worsening globally and things won’t return to “the old normal” for some time. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Monday that “there will be no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future.”

Tedros also chastised political leaders for mixed messages about outbreaks that damage trust, without referring to any politicians by name.

His grim assessment came after WHO reported a new record increase in global coronavirus cases on Sunday, with the total going up by 230,370 in 24 hours. The biggest increases were from the US, Brazil, India and South Africa. The previous WHO record for new cases was 228,102 on July 10. Deaths remained steady at about 5,000 a day.

On Monday, infections across the world crossed 13 million, according to the Worldometer tracker.

Confirmed Covid-19 deaths in Mexico passed 35,000, making it the fourth highest in fatalities. A count by Johns Hopkins University has only the US, Brazil and Britain with more confirmed deaths from the new coronavirus. Sunday’s rise to 35,006 confirmed deaths moved Mexico, a country of 130mn people, past Italy.

Various regions across the world continued to grapple with the pandemic on Monday. Hong Kong reimposed social distancing measures to combat a sudden spike in infections, banning more than four people from gathering in public and requiring passengers to wear face masks on public transport or risk a US$650 fine.

Some businesses will also be closed and restaurants restricted over when they can serve diners.

South Africa reinstated a night curfew to reduce traffic accidents and has made it mandatory for all residents to wear face masks in public. Argentina has registered more than 100,000 cases on Sunday, despite the Buenos Aires area – the country’s coronavirus hot spot — being under extended shutdown. The country now has recorded 1,845 deaths.

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