South Korean students forced online as global virus crisis deepens
Mothers watch their children go into the grounds of an elementary school in Seoul on August 25, 2020. South Korean on August 25 ordered all schools and kindergartens in the greater Seoul region -- home to half the country's 52 million population -- to switch to online classes from August 26 to September 11 as they battle multiple COVID-19 coronavirus clusters.
South Korean students forced online as global virus crisis deepens
(Agence France-Presse) - August 26, 2020 - 7:45am

SEOUL, South Korea — Millions of South Korean students were ordered back to online classes Tuesday and Mexico launched a nationwide televised schooling programme, highlighting the deepening crisis for children as the coronavirus pandemic drags into a ninth month.

The school closures were part of new measures in many parts of the to halt the disease that has killed more than 813,000 people and infected over 23 million, according to an AFP tally.

The latest high-profile case was sprint legend Usain Bolt, who was in quarantine Monday after undergoing a test for the virus that Jamaican media reported had come back positive.

The retired 100 and 200 metres world-record holder said on Twitter that he was "trying to be responsible" by going into isolation, but he did not confirm the result.

He is one of a growing number of sports personalities to have fallen victim as the virus touches all corners of society.

In the education sector, the United Nations estimates at least 60 percent of the global student population has been impacted by school closures across more than 140 countries.

All schools and kindergartens in the greater Seoul region were told on Tuesday to return to online learning as authorities battled multiple coronavirus clusters.

Another 280 infections were reported on Tuesday, taking South Korea's total to almost 18,000.

"The alarming emergence of mass infections since August is turning up as infections of our students and staff members," Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae told reporters.

'Taking their toll'

In Mexico, around 30 million children began a new school year on Monday with lessons via television in a nationwide experiment in distance learning.

The government has teamed up with four private television stations to broadcast classes across the Latin American country, which has recorded more than 60,000 deaths from the virus.

Face-to-face lessons have already been suspended since March. The government said it chose TV because it reached 94 percent of the country, compared with between 70 and 80 percent for the internet.

"I'm worried about how good the (lessons) can be through television," said one father, Alfredo Urdiain, whose 11-year-old son Emiliano is taking part.

The social isolation many children are experiencing has also prompted mental health concerns.

"These extraordinary measures of physical and social isolation are taking their toll," said Emmanuel Sarmiento, general director of the Juan N. Navarro Children's Psychiatric Hospital in Mexico City.

Anxiety about the pandemic was fuelled Tuesday by an announcement from researchers in Hong Kong that they had identified what they said was the first confirmed case of COVID-19 reinfection, raising questions about the durability of immunity.

The patient, a 33-year-old man living in Hong Kong, tested positive in March but after two negative tests was found to be positive again in August.

Microbiologist Kelvin Kai-Wang To, lead author of the study, told AFP: "COVID-19 patients should not assume after they recover that they won't get infected again."

However experts were uncertain about the significance of the announcement, with some researchers saying the case could be extremely rare.

'So lucky'

Months of lockdowns to stem the spread of the virus have taken a huge toll on the global economy, with millions losing their jobs and business shutting their doors.

On Tuesday Australian airline Qantas said it would cut almost 2,500 more jobs on top of 6,000 already announced, just days after the firm posted a huge annual loss.

Airlines have been clobbered by a collapse in tourism as nations keep their borders closed.

On Tuesday the Indonesian holiday island of Bali said foreign tourists would not be allowed to visit for the rest of 2020, scrapping a previous plan to open up from next month.

But the pandemic has not spelled disaster for all holidaymakers.

One pair of Japanese honeymooners stranded in Cape Verde by the pandemic have been named unlikely ambassadors for the tropical paradise's Olympic team at next year's Tokyo Games.

Rikiya and Ayumi Kataoka found themselves marooned in Cape Verde when the country's airport shut down.

They have since struck a partnership with authorities to make videos promoting the country.

"I don't think I will be so lucky to be given these great jobs again," Rikiya said. — AFP bureaus

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 29, 2020 - 4:10pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

November 29, 2020 - 4:10pm

The Department of Health reports an additional 2,076 COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, pushing the national caseload to 429,864.

The DOH also records 10,579 new recoveries, bringing the total of recovered patients to 398,624. With 40 new reported deaths, the country's death toll is now at 8,373.

With the latest figures, total active cases in the country stand at 22,867.

November 29, 2020 - 3:02pm

Around 9,000 runners — some wearing face masks — took part in the Shanghai International Marathon Sunday, Chinese media said, a rare mass event in a year when coronavirus laid waste to most such sport.

Prior to the race officials touted it as an opportunity to show how China — where the virus emerged late last year before unleashing a pandemic — is moving ahead despite the continuing global health crisis.

The prestigious New York, Berlin, Boston and Chicago marathons all fell victim to coronavirus this year, while London and Tokyo were open only to elite runners.

Bucking that trend, the Shanghai marathon went ahead under sunny skies following several days of rain, and with virus prevention measures in place to thwart infections. — AFP

November 28, 2020 - 5:18pm

More than 400,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus have been registered in Europe, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources around 0800 GMT Saturday.

The second-worst hit global region after Latin America and the Caribbean, 400,649 people have died of Covid-19 in Europe among 17,606,370 confirmed cases. Of these, 36,147 occurred in the past week alone -- the continent's worst seven-day total since the pandemic began.

Britain accounted for almost two-thirds of the European deaths at 57,551 from almost 1.6 million infections, followed by Italy with 53,677 deaths and 1.5 million infections, France (51,914 deaths, 2.2 million cases), Spain (44,668 deaths, 1.6 million cases) and Russia (39,068 deaths, 2.2 million cases). — AFP

November 28, 2020 - 4:04pm

The Department of Health confirms 1,893 new cases of the coronavirus disease. Total cases now at 427,797.

Out of the confirmed cases, 31,402 are registered active. There are 79 additional fatalities and 474 new recoveries.

November 28, 2020 - 3:31pm

Parts of Europe will reopen stores on Saturday in time for the holiday season after progress in containing the coronavirus, but Los Angeles will halt nearly all gatherings with the pandemic surging across the United States.

Most countries hope to ease their virus rules for Christmas and New Year, allowing families a respite before bracing for what the world hopes is one last wave of restrictions until a clutch of promising new vaccines kick in.

Stores will lift their shutters in France on Saturday, while Poland's shopping centres will also reopen. — AFP

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