Schools for more than 168 million children globally have been completely closed for almost an entire year due to Covid-19 lockdowns, according to new data released by Unicef yesterday.
Furthermore, around 214 million children globally – or 1 in 7 – have missed more than three-quarters of their in-person learning.
The analysis on school closures report notes that 14 countries worldwide have remained largely closed since March 2020 to February 2021.
Two-thirds of those countries are in Latin America and the Caribbean, affecting nearly 98 million schoolchildren. Of the 14 countries, Panama has kept schools closed for the most days, followed by El Salvador, Bangladesh, and Bolivia.
"As we approach the one-year mark of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are again reminded of the catastrophic education emergency worldwide lockdowns have created. With every day that goes by, children unable to access in-person schooling fall further and further behind, with the most marginalized paying the heaviest price," said Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
"We cannot afford to move into year two of limited or even no in-school learning for these children. No effort should be spared to keep schools open, or prioritise them in reopening plans."
According to latest data by Unesco, more than 888 million children worldwide continue to face disruptions to their education due to full and partial school closures.
The virus has killed at least 2,551,075 people since it emerged in China in December 2019, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources yesterday.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden said Tuesday said the United States will have enough Covid-19 vaccines for its adult population by the end of May, while Brazil's troubles deepened as it registered its highest 24-hour death toll.
The two countries have the largest number of deaths in the world, with 515,000 coronavirus fatalities in the US and 255,000 in Brazil, with both counting the cost of mixed public health advice on masks and other measures.
The state of Texas took the contentious step Tuesday of lifting its mask mandate, despite dire warnings from US health authorities against states rolling back steps taken to restrict the spread of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, a new study has shown that people previously infected by the Covid-19 variant identified in South Africa have better immunity against other coronavirus mutations, experts said yesterday.
The findings, from preliminary research by the team of South African scientists who identified the variant dubbed 501Y.V2, raise hopes that vaccines modelled on the strain could protect against future mutations.
In Sri Lanka, a plan to bury Muslim coronavirus victims on a remote islet was slammed yesterday by locals and the minority community. Colombo banned burials of Covid-19 victims in April, despite expert assurances they would not spread the virus, implementing a policy of forced cremations.
Italy's new government ordered more school closures Tuesday after data showed the majority of coronavirus cases to be of the more contagious British variant.