- At least 463 million children missed out on remote learning after schools closed amid COVID-19, UNICEF says.
- Ottawa announces $2B in federal funding aimed to help schools reopen safely.
- Canadian COVID-19 clinical trial scrapped after China wouldn’t ship potential vaccine.
- EU trade chief resigns following backlash over golf dinner critics say breached COVID-19 guidelines.
- France’s government allows new local COVID-19 restrictions to avoid another national lockdown.
- Daily COVID-19 cases in Argentina top 10,000 for first time.
- Australia’s COVID-19 hot spot reports lowest rise in cases in nearly two months.
The UN children’s agency says at least a third of children couldn’t access remote learning when the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools, creating “a global education emergency.”
At the height of lockdowns meant to curb the pandemic, nearly 1.5 billion children were affected by school closures, UNICEF said.
“For at least 463 million children whose schools closed due to COVID-19, there was no such a thing as remote learning,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said.
“The sheer number of children whose education was completely disrupted for months on end is a global education emergency,” she said in a statement. “The repercussions could be felt in economies and societies for decades to come.”
The report released late Wednesday night highlights significant inequality across regions, with schoolchildren in sub-Saharan Africa the most affected. The highest number of children affection by region were in South Asia — at least 147 million, according to the report.
UNICEF said the report used a globally representative analysis on the availability of home-based technology and tools needed for remote learning, such as access to television, radio and internet, and the availability of curricula delivered by the platforms.
Children in the poorest households and in rural areas were most affected.
The youngest children are also most likely to miss out on remote learning during critical years, the report said, largely due to challenges and limitations to online learning for young children and lack of assets at home.
UNICEF warned that the situation is likely far worse, because even where technology exists at home, children may not be able to learn due to pressures to do chores or work.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 8:15 a.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 126,290 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 112,455 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 9,132.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday announced more than $2 billion in funding to help provinces and territories reopen their schools and economies safely.
With less than two weeks to go before most schools are set to welcome back students for the fall term, the announcement came as some provinces are reporting increases in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
WATCH | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on funds for safe schools:
The funding is meant to allow provinces and territories to work with local school boards to implement measures to protect students and staff from COVID-19. The money can be used to help adapt learning spaces, improve air ventilation, increase hand sanitation and hygiene and buy extra personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies.
While education falls under provincial jurisdiction, Trudeau said the money is meant only to top up provincial resources and comes with no strings attached on how it is spent.
Funding will be provided in two instalments — the first payment is expected this fall and a second is to arrive early in 2021. Trudeau said the provinces will need to advise the federal government on how they have spent the money before the second disbursement flows.
Trudeau also announced an extra $112 million for First Nations communities to ensure a safe return to school on reserves.
However, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) regional chief responsible for education says the number falls far short of needs faced by communities.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron, who is the AFN regional chief for Saskatchewan, said the over 630 First Nations across Canada need about $1 billion to fully prepare for the restart of classes amid the pandemic.
“Obviously, our expectations were much higher,” said Cameron, who holds the education portfolio.
WATCH | NDP leader stresses smaller classroom sizes amid pandemic:
In an email questionnaire circulated last week by CBC Montreal and Radio-Canada, teachers and other education workers in Quebec said the school system is still not prepared to resume in-class teaching amid the threat of COVID-19.
Nearly 2,000 teachers, principals and other education workers in public schools filled out the questionnaire.
Their responses indicate deep-seated concerns about their personal safety, high levels of anxiety, confusion about government guidelines and widespread dissatisfaction with Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge.
Nearly 85 per cent of those who completed the questionnaire said it will be either “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to ensure public-health guidelines are respected when classes resume in the coming days.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
According to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 24.2 million. More than 826,000 people have died, while 15.8 million have recovered.
Phil Hogan quit as the EU’s trade commissioner on Wednesday after days of pressure over allegations he breached COVID-19 guidelines during a trip to his native Ireland.
“It was becoming increasingly clear that the controversy concerning my recent visit to Ireland was becoming a distraction from my work as an EU Commissioner and would undermine my work in the key months ahead,” Hogan said in a statement.
“I deeply regret that my trip to Ireland — the country that I have been so proud to represent as a public servant for most of my adult life — caused such concern, unease and upset.”
Hogan attended a golf dinner last week that outraged the Irish public and led to the resignation of an Irish minister and the disciplining of several lawmakers. He had insisted on Tuesday that he adhered to all rules during the trip.
France’s government says the coronavirus is now actively circulating in about a fifth of the country’s regions and is allowing new local restrictions to avoid another national lockdown.
Despite the resurgence, the government is pushing ahead with plans to reopen all French schools next week, and to welcome workers back to their jobs after summer vacations blamed for spreading the virus.
France “must do everything to avoid a new confinement,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told reporters Thursday. The government’s main mantra this fall will be learning to “live with the virus.”
France is now seeing more than 50 positive tests per 100,000 people in Paris, Marseille and other areas.
The government announced Thursday that 21 administrative regions, or departments, are now in the “red zone” where the virus is actively circulating, and where local authorities can impose stricter rules on gatherings and movements.
South Korea reported 441 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, its highest single-day total in months, making lockdown-like restrictions look inevitable as transmissions slip out of control.
The country has added nearly 4,000 infections while reporting triple-digit daily jumps on each of the past 14 days, prompting health experts to warn about hospitals possibly running out of capacity.
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 315 of the new cases were from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where health workers have struggled to track infections linked to various sources including churches, restaurants, schools and workers.
The National Assembly in Seoul was shut down and more than a dozen ruling party lawmakers were forced to isolate Thursday following a positive test of a journalist who covered a ruling party leaders’ meeting.
WATCH | FDA official made ‘egregious’ mistake on plasma benefits, says respirologist:
Africa’s top public health official says the continent has seen a 20 per cent decrease in confirmed coronavirus cases in the past week, but he warns that “we shouldn’t go home celebrating that our pandemic is over.”
John Nkengasong with the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells reporters that testing and other efforts to contain the virus are largely working, but just one or two cases could reignite infections.
He says 23 of Africa’s 54 countries have reported a sustained decrease in new confirmed cases in the past couple of weeks.
The African continent has reported more than 1.2 million confirmed cases, roughly half in South Africa. More than 11 million tests for the virus have been conducted across the continent of 1.3 billion people, and Nkengasong says the new goal is an additional 20 million tests by November.
Argentina posted a record daily rise of 10,550 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the health ministry said, taking the total caseload to 370,188 as the country struggles to rein in the spread of infections while trying to ease open its crisis-hit economy.
Argentina, which imposed a strict lockdown in March that initially helped slow the spread of the virus, is now fast catching up with other hard-hit countries in the region, including neighbour Chile, where new infections have slowed.
Latin America has become the epicentre of the global pandemic, with the highest number of infections and deaths, while the region’s economy is set to plunge sharply this year, pushing millions of people into poverty.
The government of centre-left President Alberto Fernandez extended lockdown restrictions in and around capital city Buenos Aires until the end of August. The area has the highest number of infections.
Australia’s Victoria state — epicentre of the nation’s second wave of COVID-19 infections — reported its lowest one-day rise in new cases in nearly two months, buoying hopes a lockdown of nearly five million people has contained spread of the virus.
Victoria said it detected 113 new cases in the past 24 hours, the lowest one-day rise since July 5. The state reported 149 infections on Wednesday.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the results mean officials are now plotting how to ease restrictions when the stringent lockdown of Australia’s second-most populous city, Melbourne, is scheduled to end in September.
The lockdown measures have helped ease the daily rise of coronavirus infections in Victoria after the state hit a one-day high of more than 700 cases about three weeks ago.