For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus global pandemic. The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. Our network of multilingual journalists are busy finding out what's being reported locally — everywhere — to provide as clear a picture as possible of what it means for all of us at home, around the world. To receive the daily brief in your inbox, sign up here.
SPOTLIGHT: EDUCATION IN A LOCKED-DOWN WORLD
How will today's children look back on this moment? Beyond the fears about contagion and rumors circulating on social media, many will no doubt remember the coronavirus outbreak with two words: school's out. With UNESCO estimating at least 130 countries facing nationwide closures, and some 80% of world's student population shut out of the classroom, educators are forced to improvise.
In some parts of the world, schools have set up online classes on platforms like Zoom and Skype that have offered the possibility for the learning to continue in ways that wouldn't have been possible even just a few years aog. Still, as Le Monde reports, even in France's robust national education system technical glitches have slowed down classes since the country was put on lockdown last week. And of course many students without digital access simply remain shut out from learning for months at a time.
Beyond such digital divides, television and radio (which more families have access to) has come in handy: Argentina's public television and radio are broadcasting special educational programming, with a website with e-books, interactive tools and other learning materials was set up to complement the broadcast programs. The Czech Republic's Ministry of Education also instated educational public television programs — in a mere 5 days. TV editors were originally sceptical as many teachers had no experience in front of a camera, yet the first episodes proved successful with high viewership among 4-12 year olds. In Norway, the prime minister herself lent a hand, holding a national press conference for children, explaining the measures put in place to fight the virus and answering questions ranging from "Can I have a birthday party?" to "What can I do to help?"
Meanwhile, China gave us a reminder that no matter how much young people still need to learn, they're bound to outsmart us. Students in Wuhan flooded their homework app with 1-star reviews in a collective effort to try to get it kicked off the App Store. School's out!
— Rozena Crossman
THE SITUATION - 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
Olympics postponed: The Summer Games in Tokyo have been postponed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Open or close? India orders nationwide shutdown of the country's 1.3 billion people for three weeks. UK government introduces new stricter restrictions, closing "non essential" shops and banning gatherings of more than two people. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump announces the country will "again and soon be open for business." In Wuhan, where the epidemic began, China will partially lift lockdown on April 8.
Moving faster: The World Health Organisation warns that the coronavirus spread is "accelerating" around the planet, and the US could become new epicenter of outbreak as the number of cases has jumped to more than 46,000.
Toll: Italian death toll passes 6,000 mark, as Spain registers a record 514 deaths in 24 hours, confirming it is on a similar trajectory as Italy.
Eurozone economy suffers "unprecedented collapse in business activity" in March, with services sector, especially tourism and restaurants, taking the biggest hit.
Where next: Myanmar reports first two cases in men returning from abroad. The country of 54 million was the last world's most populous country not to report a single case, despite sharing a long border with China.
Prominent deaths in Africa: Cameroonian saxophone star Manu Dibango dies at 86 after contracting the virus. A similar fate for a top Zimbabwe broadcaster, Zorozo Makamba, who is dead at the age of 30.
NUMBER DU JOUR
HOW COVID-19 HALTS PROTESTS: A "pause sanitaire" is the phrase El Watan, the French-language Algerian daily, used. Such "health pauses" have been happening among popular protest groups in a number of countries, either imposed by the government or self-imposed by the demonstrators in the face of the threat of spreading coronavirus in the close proximity of street protests.
Algeria: Recently inaugurated President Abdelmadjid Tebboune banned street protests as of last week, bringing to an end regular mass anti-government demonstrations that began in mid-February last year after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced he would seek a fifth term in office. But few are criticizing the move: "It does not mark an abdication of the movement," El Watan's editorial board wrote. "Just the opposite, it is the sign of true lucidity...facing the urgent question of saving thousands of lives."
Hong Kong: COVID-19 has in the last two months put a damper on the anti-government protests that defined 2019. But as the South China Morning Post reports, the outbreak has fueled further resentment against authorities that now fear even more violent clashes might occur as the spread of the virus dwindles.
Chile: The 90-day state of emergency announced by President Sebastian Pinera last week coincided with the five-month anniversary of nationwide mass protests against structural inequality. El Tiempo reports that the move was seen by many as a way of curbing the protests that had been escalating throughout March, especially as the government simultaneously postponed a referendum on a new constitution scheduled for April 26.
India: The government last week banned gatherings of more than 50 people, putting a stop to the long-running protest against a controversial law that bars Muslim refugees from citizenship. More bans have been imposed in other cities since, including south Mumbai, where a dispersing protester told the The Times of India: "We may have differences with the government [...] but we are with the government in the fight against COVID-19."
Rome-based La Repubblica interviewed the head of Italy's Civil Protection Agency Angelo Borrelli: "We are too slow. The virus is faster than us."
IS YOUR DOG SAFE? The World Health Organization has stated that pets were unlikely to transmit COVID-19, but what about the other way round? Hong Kong's animal welfare authority confirmed Thursday that the dog of an infected owner had tested positive, the second case known to date. So should pet owners be worried about their furry companion's health? Hong Kong University virologist Malik Peiris, whose team has been testing both infected dogs, told the South China Morning Post daily on Tuesday that, yes, pooches can be infected — meaning the virus develops in their system — after repeated contact with their owner, but they wouldn't experiences symptoms of the virus. And unlike humans (often children), there's no evidence that pets can be "asymptomatic carriers" who spread the coronavirus to other animals or humans.
NO FATHERS ALLOWED: The global pandemic is weighing on the world's entire healthcare system. In many places that also extends to hospital delivery rooms. In Germany, most federal states gave their hospitals a free hand in the implementation of restrictions of other procedures, and Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that has left many mothers-to-be out alone when it comes time to give birth. After pressure, some facilities such as the Südstadt Clinic in Rostock lifted the delivery room ban. In the Czech Republic, the news site iDNES.cz, reports that a similar measure prompted a petition signed by thousands of future mothers.
WHAT CORONAVIRUS? While most of Europe has ground to a standstill, it's business as usual in Belarus. Not only are shops and offices open, the football league is the last one still playing on the continent, reports Berlin daily Die Welt. The German daily quotes a former Bundesliga football player and Belarussian national Alexander Hleb, who jokingly invited Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to join the Belarussian league if they were missing the action on the pitch.
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