And it’s not just Australia. AP is reporting a statement by the United Nations chief that the coronavirus pandemic has led to the largest disruption of education in history, with schools closed in more than 160 countries in mid-July, affecting more than 1 billion students.
In addition, secretary general António Guterres said on Tuesday that at least 40 million children worldwide have missed out on education “in their critical pre-school year”.
As a result, he warned that the world faces “a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities”.
“We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people,” Guterres said in a video message and a 26-page policy briefing. “The decisions that governments and partners take now will have lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people, and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come.”
Guterres called for the reopening of schools once the local transmission of the virus is under control.
We’re running a worrying piece about childcare in Australia reporting providers’ warnings that, with less than 48 hours until childcare attendance rates are set to plummet in Melbourne, urgent clarity and support is needed from the state and federal governments.
From Thursday 6 July, only parents from “defined industries” will be allowed to send their children to childcare, as part of Melbourne’s stage four lockdowns. But, writes Matilda Boseley, there has been no word on which families will qualify, nor what government support will be available to providers.
“We are essentially at this point stumbling around in the semi-darkness,” said Ruth Harper, a coordinator at East-West Childcare in Fitzroy.
“It’s impossible to plan without any real clarity of how many kids we’re likely to have. And, until we get some clarity around the funding, it’s impossible to know how we’re going to pay our staff. We are in a bit of a catch-22.”
The federal education minister, Dan Tehan, fronted media on Tuesday afternoon but said the federal government would need confirmation on which workers would qualify for childcare from Victoria’s government before he could make any announcements on funding.
“All options are on the table. We’re going to continue those discussions this afternoon, and my hope is that we’ll be able to announce something tomorrow, which will provide certainty for the sector for the next six weeks and beyond,” he said.
Here’s a piece Hannah Ryan wrote on Monday, looking at the issue in more depth.
And a it’s a Good Morning from me, Amelia Hill, in sunny London. I’ll be with you until 11am, keeping you abreast of what’s happening across the world.
I will be handing over to my colleagues in London shortly, but before then, here’s a summary of the main news so far.
- The Philippines has begun a lockdown of 27 million people, imposing stricter measures in an attempt to halt the country’s spiralling coronavirus case numbers. The measures were reintroduced on Tuesday after the country’s infection tally topped 100,000 and a coalition of health groups issued a “distress signal” urging President Rodrigo Duterte to act.
- The UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, warned on Tuesday that the world faced a “generational catastrophe” because of school closures amid the coronavirus pandemic and said that getting students safely back to the classroom must be “a top priority” once local transmission drops.
- The World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has warned that there may never be an effective Covid-19 vaccine: “A number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help [protect] people from infection,” Tedros said. “However there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be.”
- President Trump has rejected a national lockdown to bring the coronavirus pandemic in the US under control and insisted the US had done “very well” fighting the virus. The US has recorded 4.7m cases and more than 155,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins university tracker.
- In Australia, the state of Victoria recorded another 439 cases and 11 deaths, the day after the premier, Daniel Andrews, announced a six-week lockdown with much more significant restrictions including a night-time curfew in the state capital, Melbourne, for the next six weeks, the closure of non-essential businesses, and a ban on weddings. Andrews also introduced significant fines of A$5,000 (US$3,500) for people not following self-isolation directions.
- China reported 36 new cases of Covid-19 (including 6 imported cases). Of the 30 local cases, 28 were in the western province of Xinjiang, and two in the eastern province of Liaoning. Of the six imported cases four were in Guangdong, one in Shanghai, and one in Sichuan.
- For the first time in two weeks Hong Kong reported fewer than 100 new cases of Covid-19 in a day. The city is experiencing its third and worst wave of the outbreak since the virus first appeared there in January. Driven largely by community transmission, 2,342 of Hong Kong’s 3,590 total cases have been recorded in the past month.
- Latin America broke through 5 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Monday according to a Reuters tally, underscoring the region’s position as the area of the world hardest hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Brazil has the second-worst coronavirus outbreak in the world after the United States, with more than 2.75m and 94,665 deaths, according to health ministry data.
- Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s chief of staff has tested positive to Covid-19. General Walter Souza Braga Netto is the the seventh Brazilian minister to have contracted the disease. Last week, Bolsonaro’s wife tested positive, following her husband’s infection.
- One person is dying from Covid-19 every seven minutes in Iran, state television said on Monday, as the country’s health ministry reported 215 new deaths from the disease. The combined death toll in Iran rose to 17,405 on Monday, Sima Sadat Lari, the health ministry spokeswoman, said, while the number of confirmed cases rose by 2,598 to 312,035. Of those, 270,228 have recovered.
- New Zealand has recorded no new cases of Covid-19. There are 22 cases of the disease in the country, all in managed isolation. The country’s health director general, Ashley Bloomfield, warned that a single case outside of quarantine facilities could turn into a wider outbreak if people were not vigilant. “We have worked too hard to let that happen here,” he said at a news conference.
In case you missed it, Donald Trump rejected calls for a national lockdown at his coronavirus press briefing and insisted the US “doing very well” in its fight against Covid-19.
As the Guardian’s Ed Pilkington reports …
On a day that the US had surpassed 4.7m confirmed cases of infection – more than a quarter of the global total – Trump tried to deflect criticism of his administration’s handling of the pandemic on to other countries.
He cited Spain, Germany, France, Australia and Japan as countries experiencing “significant flare ups” as the virus surges again. In fact, while Australia and Japan are experiencing renewed surges, their total incidence of disease remains a fraction of the catastrophe now sweeping across the US.
In Germany, the total number of confirmed cases stands at 212,000, with fewer than 1,000 new cases per day. By comparison, new cases in the US are beginning to plateau but at an extremely high level of about 60,000 a day.
Focus is now switching to states in the heartlands of the country such as Tennessee, Oklahoma and Missouri, where the virus is spreading fast. Trump tried to assuage fears for those areas, saying: “I think you’ll find they are soon going to be very much under control.”
There is concern that the virus is also extending its tentacles out of major urban and suburban population centers into the rural parts of America. On Monday, Trump signed a new executive order aimed at providing a lifeline to struggling hospitals and health centers in rural areas, while also extending telehealth services across the country, after virtual visits soared during the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump, who is counting on votes from backers in rural areas in the 2020 presidential election, said the new order would ensure that telehealth services expanded during the pandemic remained in place even after the public health emergency ended.
Despite these alarming figures, Trump claimed that under his leadership the US was “doing very well”. He dismissed mounting criticism that the federal government has consistently failed to tackle the virus, insisting that lockdowns did not work.
“It’s important for all Americans to recognize that a permanent lockdown is not a viable path forward and would ultimately inflict more harm than it would prevent. Lockdowns do not prevent infection in the future,” he said.
Philippines lockdown to affect 27 million
More than 27 million people have been put back into lockdown in and around the Philippines’ capital, as stricter measures are imposed in an attempt to halt the country’s spiralling coronavirus case numbers.
The measures were reintroduced on Tuesday after the country’s infection tally topped 100,000 and a coalition of health groups issued a “distress signal” urging President Rodrigo Duterte to act. “Our healthcare workers should not bear the burden of deciding who lives and who dies,” they said in an open letter at the weekend, warning the health system was at risk of being overwhelmed.
Two major government hospitals in Manila city have been forced to close temporarily because infections among health workers have escalated so sharply, while some private hospitals are turning away patients due to bed shortages.
The Philippines has so far recorded 106,330 cases, a number that is rapidly rising. On Monday, the country reported a record number of infections for a fourth successive day. It is likely the Philippines will soon overtake Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, to become the worst-hit nation in south-east Asia. Testing rates in both countries remain low. There have so far been 2,104 deaths in the Philippines.
You can read our full story below:
UN warns world faces ‘generational catastrophe’ over school closures
UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, warned on Tuesday that the world faces a “generational catastrophe” because of school closures amid the coronavirus pandemic and said that getting students safely back to the classroom must be “a top priority.”
Guterres said that as of mid-July schools were closed in some 160 countries, affecting more than 1 billion students, while at least 40 million children have missed out on pre-school.
This came on top of more than 250 million children already being out of school before the pandemic and only a quarter of secondary school students in developing countries leaving with basic skills, he said in a video statement.
“Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities,” said Guterres as he launched a UN “Save our Future” campaign.
“Once local transmission of COVID-19 is under control, getting students back into schools and learning institutions as safely as possible must be a top priority,” he said.
“Consultation with parents, carers, teachers and young people is fundamental,” he said.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 879 to 211,281, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday.
The reported death toll rose by eight to 9,156, the tally showed.
Hong Kong extends social distancing measures
I mentioned a few posts ago that Hong Kong recorded fewer than 100 cases of Covid-19 for 3 August. Here’s some analysis from our correspondent, Helen Davidson:
For the first time in two weeks Hong Kong has reported fewer than 100 new cases of Covid-19 in a day.
On Monday evening health authorities said 80 people had been diagnosed with the virus, with the infection source unknown for 24 of them.
Hong Kong is experiencing its third and worst wave of the outbreak since the virus first appeared there in January. Driven largely by community transmission, 2,342 of Hong Kong’s 3,590 total cases have been recorded in the past month.
The centre for health protection said they would observe the trend over the coming days before making any determination about whether the infection rate was declining.
Strict social distancing measures, which were due to expire on Wednesday, have been extended another week. Pools, beaches, gyms, and various clubs will remain closed, and restaurants will continue to be limited to takeaway services between 6pm and 5am, with a maximum of two people at a table the rest of the time. The government had banned all dine in services last week but quickly reversed the decision after community backlash.
Citing anonymous sources, the South China Morning Post said mainland Chinese experts deployed to Hong Kong last week are assisting the construction of two temporary Covid-19 hospitals, and increased testing. Photos published in Chinese state media, Xinhua, show hundreds of beds separated by temporary dividers in an exhibition hall of the AsiaWorld-Expo centre, which opened Saturday. According to the SCMP, this will be expanded with another 400 beds in a second hall.
The high number of infections has threatened to overwhelm Hong Kong’s public hospital system. Unlike other countries, which allow, encourage, or even require Covid-19 patients to recuperate at home if they have mild systems, Hong Kong sends everyone to a hospital isolation bed.
As of Monday there were 1,243 patients in the 1,256 beds across 19 hospitals and one community isolation facility.
Of those, 43 people are critical, 49 in serious condition, and 1,151 stable.
Data from the hospital authority shows the occupancy rate of the isolation wards rose from about 60% to above 80% during this latest wave. Individual bed occupancy increased by about 50% in the same time. Current rates are around 75%.
New Zealand has recorded no new cases of Covid-19.
There are now just 22 cases of the disease in the country, all in managed isolation.
But the country’s health director general, Ashley Bloomfield said a single case outside of the quarantine facilities could turn into a wider outbreak if people were not vigilant. “We have worked too hard to let that happen here,” he said at a news conference.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency is reporting that two members of the army have tested positive for coronavirus, citing the defence ministry.
Yonhap says one is a draftee and the other is a military intelligence command officer:
The soldier based in Pocheon, some 45 kilometers north of Seoul, has been in isolation after coming into close contact with an outside counselor who was infected with COVID-19 late last month, according to the ministry.
The soldier tested positive on his second test required to exit mandatory quarantine, it added.
The counsellor was found to have visited several front-line units in the Pocheon areas before he tested positive, and 19 virus patients at the barracks are believed to be linked to the man.
The other fresh case is a warrant officer affiliated with the Defence Security Support Command in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, according to the defence ministry.
He appears to have contracted the virus after visiting a restaurant in Seoul where a COVID-19 patient stayed, command officials said, adding that contact tracing is under way.
The Beijing-baked Global Times has reported that Hong Kong has confirmed 78 new cases of coronavirus, citing to China’s National Health Commission.
Andrews is now announcing new fines for anyone who breaches their isolation orders:
If you are supposed to be at home and you are not, then you face the prospect of a fine of up to $5,000. If there were repeat breaches, if there were particularly selfish behaviour like, for instance, going to work when you had the virus, then there is the alternative pathway and that is, of course, taking you to the magistrates court, where the maximum penalty that can be applied to you is $20,000.
These are substantial new penalty measures. Andrews says the on-the-spot fine is the largest on the statute books in the state of Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state.