With close to 100,000 people now infected with the coronavirus, some governments are taking extraordinary measures to try and contain it. In Italy, the epicenter of Europe's outbreak, all sporting events are set to take place behind closed doors for the next month. The Italian authorities have also announced that schools and universities are closing until March 15th.
Italy is one of 13 countries that have ordered nationwide school closures due to COVID-19 and according to UNESCO, 290.5 million children are now affected around the world. A further nine countries have implemented localized school closures and up to 180 million more children are potentially at risk. The data refers to pre-primary, primary, lower-secondary, and upper-secondary levels of education.
Given the size of its population and the scope of its outbreak, China has the most children out of school at 233 million. Japan has 331 COVID-19 cases and it is keeping 16.5 million children at home. Iran is trying to contain a serious outbreak and 14.6 million children are now impacted by its school closures. The total number affected in Italy is around 9 million.
UNESCO states that school closures have several adverse consequences such as interrupted learning which results in children and youth being deprived of opportunities for growth and development. Parents are also forced to stay at home which has an impact on the economy while the strain on insitutions that stay open increases drastically. Digital learning portals can address the problem but they are not available everywhere, especially in poorer countries that lack access to the technology or fast internet connections.