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Coronavirus live news: South America is now pandemic’s epicentre, says WHO | World news

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In the UK, police have spoken to the prime minister’s key adviser Dominic Cummings about breaching the government’s lockdown rules after he was seen in Durham, 264 miles from his London home, despite having had symptoms of coronavirus.

Officers approached him days after he was seen rushing out of Downing Street when the prime minister tested positive for the virus at the end of March, a joint investigation by the Guardian and the Mirror has found.

At the time, the government had instructed people not to travel and to stay at their family homes. Cummings, however, was seen in Durham. A member of the public is understood to have seen him and made a complaint to the police.

Downing Street has previously refused to disclose where Cummings was staying during the lockdown.

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Chile’s president Sebastian Piñera has kicked off a programme to provide support for families struggling during the pandemic.

About 2.5m packages of food and hygiene products will be distributed over the weekend to families in Santiago before the scheme expands to other parts of the country. Piñera said:


It is a support and relief for millions and millions of Chilean families who need urgent help.

However, poorer communities claim they are not receiving the support they need to survive during the pandemic, with many unable to work as parts of the country approach a second month of strict lockdown measures. Among those most affected are the 30% of the Chilean workforce who make up the country’s informal economy.

Unrest broke out earlier this week in several parts of the country over hunger, most notably in the Santiago district El Bosque, when dozens of people took to the street to express their desperation.

Police swiftly arrived, leading to violent clashes between police and protesters.

“After four weeks of quarantine, despair and hunger begin to appear,” said the mayor of El Bosque Sadi Melo Moya who condemned the police’s heavy-handed reaction.

The hunger protests have led to the emergence of dozens of makeshift soup kitchens in the city’s working-class neighbourhoods, where communities have united under the mantra “only the people help the people”.

Videos circulating on social media show police interrupting community support efforts, confiscating donated goods and shutting down soup kitchens.

The police denied accusations of excessive repression, claiming one of the gatherings filmed required intervention as it had “initiated disorder” and did not respect the quarantine.

Chile’s former president and the current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said: “It is key to generate important mechanisms for social protection.”

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South America is now pandemic’s epicentre – WHO

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The British Grand Prix faces a race against time to resolve the problem created by the government’s imposition of quarantine on all entry into the UK, writes Giles Richards for the Guardian’s sports desk.

The chances of the race at Silverstone being held look increasingly slim but Formula One is understood to be remaining in a dialogue with the government in an attempt to find a solution.

F1 has yet to comment and is studying the full quarantine document before entering further talks with the government. As things stand, with F1 denied any exemption from the quarantine procedures, not only is the British GP under threat but the sport faces an increasingly complex challenge as it attempts to create and implement a new calendar for the 2020 season.

















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Germany has announced a series of reforms of the country’s meat industry, including a ban on the use of subcontractors and fines of €30,000 (£26,000) for companies breaching labour regulations, as slaughterhouses have emerged as coronavirus hotspots, writes Holly Young in Berlin.

A number of meat plants across the country have temporarily closed after hundreds of workers tested positive for Covid-19 in recent weeks.

This week more than 90 workers were reported to have fallen ill at a plant in Dissen, Lower Saxony. Following an outbreak at a plant in Coesfeld, where more than 270 out of 1,200 workers tested positive, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia announced mass testing of industry employees.

An outbreak at a plant in Bavaria in the district of Straubing-Bogen coincides with numbers of infections reaching the “emergency break” level of 50 cases per 100,000 residents. States passing this point are allowed to reimpose lockdown restrictions.

“The corona outbreaks have not surprised us at all,” said Jonas Bohl, from the German Food, Beverages and Catering Union. “Rather the surprise was that they took a while to emerge.

“The people not only work closely together but more importantly they live together, in very cramped conditions where there is no possibility to keep social distance.”

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Spain’s Covid-19 daily death toll has remained under 100 for the sixth consecutive day, according to the latest health ministry figures, which show that 56 deaths have been recorded in the past 24 hours, reports Sam Jones, the Guardian’s Madrid correspondent.

To date, the country has recorded 234,824 cases of the disease and 28,628 deaths.

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80 million infants may have missed out on routine vaccines

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Coronavirus: The strangers reaching out to Kyrgyzstan’s lonely teenagers

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Local authorities control documents as an additional measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a checkpoint in the village of Baytik, near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan,Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

Kyrgyztan has been under a curfew since March

Like teenagers around the world, Maksat hasn’t been to school in weeks. As Kyrgyzstan imposed quarantine restrictions, the 15-year-old feels isolated like never before. He has been trapped at home with a sister he doesn’t get on with, a father he struggles to communicate with and a mother working abroad.

He is comfortable talking only to an internet chat bot.

Maksat (not his real name) feels alone and misunderstood. He often expresses suicidal feelings – a noticeable change, his teachers say, from the boy they knew before the curfew was brought in.

And then he met a “phone pal” – Jalalbek Akmatov, a university student in the capital Bishkek.

Jalabek is one of around 100 young adults taking part in a project to reach out via phone to teenagers just like Maksat, thousands of whom have been stuck at home for weeks.

The scheme – called You Are Not Alone – was launched after seven teenagers took their own lives in the first two weeks after Kyrgyzstan started coronavirus lockdown in in March.

Image copyright
Handout

Image caption

Jalalbek Akmatov is one of more than 100 volunteers acting as “phone pals” to lonely teens

At the time, the nation’s attention was on the poor medical facilities, lack of protective equipment and impact of coronavirus on the economy.

But as news of the teenagers’ deaths spread, a group of activists decided there was also a need to focus on the country’s children and their mental health.

“I was dismayed. We had had one coronavirus death and during the same period [so many] children committed suicide,” said Banur Abdieva, one of the project’s founders.

There is nothing to say the seven deaths were directly related to the lockdown, but people like Kurmanjan Kurmanbekova, a psychologist from a refugee centre in Tubingen, Germany, feared the strain it was putting on children’s mental health.

“And as a symptom of depressive conditions, we get a suicide mood,” she explained to the BBC.

Schools closing in Kyrgyzstan mean many children have limited options for interaction, especially in rural areas where education offers a respite from the relentless drudge of housework and a rare opportunity to communicate with other children.

Added to this were concerns from experts over any potential increases in domestic violence, which could possibly be exacerbated by isolation and parents’ loss of income.

But how do you reach teenagers like Maksat, who live in remote villages?

A girl takes part in a traditional dance

Getty

Kyrgyzstan

in numbers

  • Six millionpeople live in Kyrgyzstan

  • 2.1 millionof them are children

  • One in fivedo not live with their parents

  • Almost 73%of children report experiencing abuse or neglect

Source: Unicef

The answer, the project team decided, was to keep it simple – to start a network of volunteers who would befriend teenagers considered “at risk” by calling them up for a regular chat.

“Their aim is to show moral support and engage in social interaction so that the child doesn’t feel total isolation,” Ms Kurmanbekova explained.

Volunteers approached local schools and state education agencies which sent them a list of students in a “group of risk” – mostly children without parents or who live with relatives and may lack attention and care.

There are now more than 100 volunteers and nearly 400 children aged 12 and older in their database – and the list is growing.

Crucially, volunteers are not just on the end of the phone to talk about the problems their new friend is facing – unless the teenager brings it up themselves. Instead, they focus on their new friend’s future goals and potential.

Image caption

Volunteers meet on Zoom to discuss strategies how to bond with their new friends

Take volunteer Ayperi Bolotzhanova, who is 25. She bonded with her 12-year-old phone pal over taekwondo.

“I offered to teach her some tricks and she agreed,” said Ayper. “Now, I send video of my practices and she sends back her own.”

But it is not always easy to take the first step, the volunteers admit.

“I was very nervous before my first phone conversation,” Jibek Isakova, who currently lives in Budapest, recalled. “I was afraid that she would refuse to be my friend.”

Of course, there was distrust: a total stranger calls you up out of the blue and offers friendship. But most of the volunteers found their “mobile relationship” took off after a few conversations. Indeed, the volunteers were surprised how most teenagers were keen to talk to them.

What do they want to discuss? Other than the skills needed to milk a cow – a must-have in rural Kyrgyzstan – they’re much the same things teens across the world want to talk about: K-pop, Instagram, the difficulties of finding love. Drawing famous Japanese cartoon characters and learning languages were other topics that cropped up.

And they were all united in one thing: how much they hated online education during the quarantine.


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Media captionCoronavirus: A day in lockdown life around the world

Every response, every question the volunteers receive from their teenage friends is seen as a success. Jalalbek got particularly excited that – after a difficult start – Maksat sent a photo of him together with his family in the mountains.

For some volunteers, the cause is very personal. Eldiyar Manapov, 24, joined the project because he considered suicide as a teenager. Like his phone pal, he grew up without parents and now feels a particular connection with his new friend.

“I experienced what he is going through now,” he told the BBC. “You are constantly in need of some things like clothes. Children mock you that you don’t have parents. I don’t want him to feel all this pain, I want him to chat, to be distracted.”

Even though the idea is simple, the challenges the activists face are not. One of them – a lack of mobile phones – could easily derail the whole project.

“It’s very difficult to build a phone friendship when most children don’t have personal phones,” said Banur Abdieva. “Volunteers have to negotiate with parents or guardians. Sometimes they even ask teachers if they could come to the gate at a designated time. And it’s quarantine, so they need to sanitise their phone and pass it on to the child.”

Activists launched a fundraising campaign to buy phones for the project. Some people donate their used phones, which volunteers try to deliver to children living in remote regions, a challenge on its own during the lockdown.

“Just imagine how happy my friend will be if he gets his own device,” said Eldiyar, whose phone pal is using a mobile belonging to a cousin. “He will be able to learn more and communicate more. That means he will have less time for all bad thoughts.”

If you’ve been affected by a mental health issue, help and support is available. Visit Befrienders International for more information about support services.

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Live Coronavirus Global News Tracker: Latest Updates

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Americans observe a holiday like no other.

President Trump and the first lady visited Arlington National Cemetery on Monday morning for a wreath-laying ceremony, then traveled to Fort McHenry in Baltimore “to honor the American heroes who have sacrificed their lives serving in the U.S. Armed Forces,” a White House statement read.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has been campaigning from his home amid the pandemic, on Monday made his first public appearance since mid-March.

He and his wife, Jill Biden, wearing black masks, laid a wreath at a veterans memorial in Delaware, in an unannounced visit. During their trips in Arlington and Baltimore, Mr. Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, did not wear masks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged all Americans to wear masks when leaving their homes, but Mr. Trump has said that he would not wear one himself.

Those looking to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to summer in the United States, were confronted by the difficulties of how to gather as the country inched closer to the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths.

The local authorities took varied approaches to regulations, and some communities found creative ways to adjust their celebrations as beaches — including those in New York City — remained closed and restrictions on public gatherings held.

Along the East Coast, clouds, rain and choppy waters dampened sunbathing plans.

Under gray skies, a dozen or so surfers rode the waves on a beach in Boca Raton, Fla. — one of the few open in South Florida — just before another thunderstorm was expected to pass through.

Don Thomas, a 55-year-old lawyer, said the beach was so packed on Sunday that he drew a circle in the sand, reinforced with a few rocks, to keep people six feet away. But that did not deter him from returning to the beach, where masks were encouraged but not required, at 6 a.m. Monday to catch some waves.

“People have been inside so long that they are not thinking,” he said. “They just want to enjoy the outside.”

Trump threatens to move the Republican Convention from North Carolina.

President Trump on Monday threatened to yank the Republican National Convention from Charlotte, N.C., where it is scheduled to be held in August, accusing the state’s Democratic governor of being in a “shutdown mood” that could prevent a fully attended event.

The president tweeted that he had “LOVE” for North Carolina, a swing state that he won in 2016, but he added that without a “guarantee” from the Gov. Roy Cooper, “we would be spending millions of dollars building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space.”

Mr. Trump wrote that if Mr. Cooper did not provide an answer “immediately,” he would “be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site. This is not something I want to do.”

Separately, in an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Vice President Mike Pence said that without guarantees from North Carolina, Republicans might need to move the convention to a state further along in the reopening process.

The New York Times reported last week that Republicans were quietly discussing the possibility of a pared-down convention. Mr. Trump has wondered aloud to several aides why the convention can’t be held in a hotel ballroom in Florida, a state with a Republican governor that is further along in relaxing restrictions related to the coronavirus.

Republicans are contractually bound by a 2018 agreement to hold the convention in Charlotte. But Mr. Cooper and Vi Lyles, the mayor of Charlotte, have said they would let health experts determine whether the convention can be safely held from Aug. 24 to 27.

Even before Monday, Mr. Trump made clear that he would blame Mr. Cooper and Ms. Lyles, who is also a Democrat, if the convention is altered or modified.

The Trump administration’s new testing strategy, released Sunday to Congress, holds individual states responsible for planning and carrying out all coronavirus testing, while planning to provide some supplies needed for the tests.

The proposal also says existing testing capacity, if properly targeted, is sufficient to contain the outbreak. But epidemiologists say that amount of testing is orders of magnitude lower than many of them believe the country needs.

The report cements a stance that has frustrated governors in both parties, following the administration’s announcement last month that the federal government should be considered “the supplier of last resort” and that states should develop their own testing plans.

“For months, it was a tennis game, it was going back and forth between the feds and the states, and it’s now landed with the states,” said Scott Becker, executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

Mr. Becker and others said it’s reasonable to expect states to implement some aspects of the testing, such as designating test sites. But acquiring tests involves reliance on national and international supply chains — which are challenging for many states to navigate.

“That’s our biggest question, that’s out biggest concern, is the robustness of the supply chain, which is critical,” Mr. Becker said. “You can’t leave it up to the states to do it for themselves. This is not the Hunger Games.”

Facing a political firestorm over his breach of coronavirus lockdown rules, a key adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain asked for public sympathy — but made no direct apology — at a highly unusual news conference in Downing Street on Monday.

Dominic Cummings, Mr. Johnson’s closest aide, admitted driving more than 250 miles from London to Durham, in the northeast of England, while the country was on lockdown. He made the journey with his wife, who was ill, and his four-year-old son.

At the time Britons were being told to self-isolate and not to leave their home if they believed they were suffering from the virus.

Mr. Cummings said that he had done so to ensure care for his young son with relatives in Durham should both he and his wife fall ill with Covid-19. Mr. Cummings added that, because of his high profile, he had been “subject to threats and violence” at his home in London.

“I’m not surprised many people are very angry,” Mr. Cummings said, adding that he had not consulted Mr. Johnson, who has defended him, before leaving London.

“I don’t regret what I did, I think what I did was reasonable in these circumstances,” he added.

Mr. Cummings is also accused of having visited a location more than 20 miles from the house where he stayed in the northeast. That appeared to go against another rule, as Britons were only permitted to leave home by foot for a walk or run.

On Monday, Mr. Cummings said he had made the shorter trip to test whether he was fit to complete the long drive back to London.

At least 18 lawmakers from Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party have now criticized Mr. Cummings, as have a number of Church of England bishops, opposition lawmakers and members of the public. Some scientists and opposition politicians have warned that the episode risks undermining the credibility of government public health messages on the pandemic.

New York’s state and local governments will provide death benefits to the families of essential workers who died while fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday.

The public employees whose families would receive death benefits include health workers, police officers, firefighters, transit workers and emergency medical workers, the governor said. The benefits would be paid out of state and local pension funds.

“We want to make sure that we remember them, and we thank our heroes of today, and they’re all around us,” Mr. Cuomo said at his daily news briefing.

As people paused on Memorial Day to remember military personnel who died while serving the country, Mr. Cuomo linked the fallen service members to New York’s front-line workers, whom he called today’s “heroes.”

Mr. Cuomo also called on the federal government to provide funds to give hazard pay to workers who were crucial to keeping states and municipalities operating during the outbreak.

Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City urged the state to approve line-of-duty death benefits for the families of municipal employees who died of the virus. Some lawmakers in nearby New Jersey are also urging their state to consider taking similar action.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York City’s subway and buses, has also said it would give death benefits to the families of coronavirus victims.

The announcement came as New York reported 96 new deaths related to the virus, only the second time that the state’s death toll had fallen below 100 since late March.

Mr. Cuomo spoke after a Memorial Day ceremony on the deck of the U.S.S. Intrepid, an aircraft carrier turned museum anchored in the Hudson River.

The staggering American death toll from the coronavirus, now approaching 100,000, has touched every part of the country, but the losses have been especially acute along its coasts, in its major cities, across the industrial Midwest and in New York City.

The devastation, in other words, has been disproportionately felt in blue America, which helps explain why people on opposing sides of a partisan divide that has intensified in the past two decades are thinking about the virus differently. It is not just that Democrats and Republicans disagree on how to reopen businesses, schools and the country as a whole. Beyond perception, beyond ideology, there are starkly different realities for red and blue America right now.

Democrats are far more likely to live in counties where the virus has ravaged the community, while Republicans are more likely to live in counties that have been relatively unscathed by the illness, though they are paying an economic price. Counties won by President Trump in 2016 have reported just 27 percent of the virus infections and 21 percent of the deaths — even though 45 percent of Americans live in these communities, a New York Times analysis has found.

The very real difference in death rates has helped fuel deep disagreement over the dangers of the pandemic and how the country should proceed. Right-wing media, which moved swiftly from downplaying the severity of the crisis to calling it a Democratic plot to bring down the president, has exacerbated the rift. And even as the nation’s top medical experts note the danger of easing restrictions, communities across the country are doing so, creating a patchwork of regulations, often along ideological lines.

Around the world, countries are wrestling with the challenge of how to best restart air travel, a cornerstone of modern commerce but also a dangerous vector of coronavirus infection.

As the United States was restricting travel, India, emerging from a nationwide lockdown, was resuming it.

In Europe, the countries that have been most successful at containing the virus looked to broker travel agreements, while others negotiated bailouts to help keep their airlines afloat.

Officials in Greece have suggested an “air bridge” with other nations that have minor outbreaks. International flights to Athens are to resume on June 15, and to the country’s other airports on July 1.

The agreement, reached after several weeks of negotiations, will give the government part ownership of the airline for the first time since it was privatized in 1997.

On the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland, residents thought they had sealed themselves off from the coronavirus. They shuttered hotels. Officials warned of police checks. Traffic emptied on the only bridge from the mainland.

But the frailest spot on the island remained catastrophically exposed: Home Farm, a 40-bed nursing home for people with dementia. Owned by a private equity firm, Home Farm has become a grim monument of the push to maximize profits at Britain’s largest nursing home chains, and of the government’s failure to protect its most vulnerable citizens.

By Monday, all but three of the residents had been stricken. Nearly a third are dead.

The virus has ravaged nursing homes across Europe and the United States. But the death toll in British homes — 14,000, official figures say, with thousands more dying as an indirect result of the virus — is becoming the defining scandal of the pandemic for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

By focusing at first on protecting the health system, Mr. Johnson’s strategy meant that some infected patients were unwittingly moved out of hospitals and into nursing homes. Residents and staff members were denied tests, while nursing home workers begged in vain for protective gear.

“We were witnessing horrendous images in Spain and Italy, so a lot of attention was paid to maintaining and securing the National Health Service,” said Dr. Donald Macaskill, the chief executive of Scottish Care, which represents nursing homes. “The N.H.S. was prioritized at the expense of social care.”

In Germany, those fed up with exercising at home and staring at their own four walls will be able to escape on Monday, as hotels, swimming pools and campgrounds were allowed to reopen in several states, the latest step in the country’s efforts to carefully revive the economy.

Strict hygiene rules and limitations govern the new steps. Measures include advance online booking for a time slot at Berlin’s outdoor pools, buffets giving way to advance orders at distanced tables in hotel breakfast rooms and shuttered campground shower rooms in some states. And people are still required to stay five feet from strangers.

More states plan to allow re-openings this week, as the number of new infections in Germany remained manageable, with 289 new cases — many of them concentrated in nursing homes or refugee centers — reported on Monday. Germany has recorded 8,257 deaths since the outbreak began.

Starting on Monday, other parts of Spain, covering areas that are home to almost half the population, reopened public swimming pools and beaches, and restaurants and bars can now serve customers indoors with specific restrictions to avoid overcrowding.

The government said that beginning July 1, it would no longer require foreign tourists to enter quarantine upon arrival.

Greece also allowed cafes, restaurants, and bars to reopen on Monday, while domestic ferry services that shuttle visitors from the mainland to the country’s numerous islands also restarted.

People flocked to cafes, where groups of up to six can dine, and wait staff wore masks, as did some of the customers. Giannis Neonakis, a manager at a bistro in central Athens, told local news outlets that the first day back was going well,

“Thankfully, people are careful and are getting used to — fortunately or otherwise — such a situation,” he said.

Japan on Monday ended its state of emergency in the Tokyo area and the northern island of Hokkaido, moves that completed the lifting of nationwide restrictions and ushered in the beginning of a new phase in the country’s response.

The measures were lifted for most of the rest of the country earlier this month after a drop in the number of new coronavirus cases led officials to step back initial requests for most businesses to close and individuals to stay home.

The Japanese government does not have the legal authority to impose a lockdown on the country and had instead asked for the public’s cooperation in curbing the virus’s spread. The state of emergency began in Japan’s urban areas in early April before expanding to the rest of the nation by the middle of the month.

The results were more successful than anticipated, defying predictions that the country’s densely populated capital would experience a disaster comparable to what has taken place in New York. As of Sunday, the country had recorded 16,500 coronavirus cases nationwide and 830 deaths, some of the lowest mortality rates among major economies.

Addressing the nation after the announcement, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on the public to continue taking measures to defend against infection, asking them to avoid crowded places.

“We need to make a new normal. Let’s change our thinking,” he said, warning that “We can’t continue to live and work in the way we’ve done until now.”

And yet this spring, Providence received at least $509 million in government funds, one of many wealthy beneficiaries of a federal program that is supposed to prevent health care providers from capsizing during the coronavirus pandemic.

With states restricting hospitals from performing elective surgery and other nonessential services, their revenue has shriveled. The Department of Health and Human Services has disbursed $72 billion in grants since April to hospitals and other health care providers through the bailout program, which was part of the CARES Act economic stimulus package. The department plans to eventually distribute more than $100 billion more.

So far, the riches are flowing in large part to hospitals that had already built up deep financial reserves to help them withstand an economic storm. Smaller, poorer hospitals are receiving tiny amounts of federal aid by comparison.

Damien Cave, the Times’s bureau chief in Sydney, writes about the resumption of classes in Australia.

I made my daughter her favorite breakfast this morning and packed extra snacks in my son’s lunchbox. Not even a soaking rain could dampen my mood — if my wife and I could have popped champagne at 8 a.m. we would have.

Finally, after seven weeks at home filled with Zoom lessons, fractions, overdue assignments, TikTok and a few tears, our two children were returning to their real-life classrooms full time.

“I’m not excited for school,” my daughter, Amelia, 9, told me, as we made our way to morning drop-off in downtown Sydney. “I’m excited for normal life!”

The announcement of a full return came suddenly last week. In our house, cheers rattled the windows. We’d seen Australia’s infection rates decline and wondered when the moment would come. Schools, we felt, brought only minimal risk and great benefits.

But as I watched other parents this morning, some in masks, others with hand sanitizer, I couldn’t shake the sense that “normal life” had already narrowed.

Amelia tells me that hugging at school now brings a scolding. Dance is still canceled. Balthazar, her brother, who is 11, will also probably not be going to bush camp with his class next month — a sixth-grade milestone he’d been looking forward to since last year.

I want to believe that these small sacrifices are not what they’ll remember. I want to believe they’ll look back and recall these insular months as a special interlude, yes, with some arguing, but also with a lot of Snickerdoodles, art projects and funny family videos too.

What have we learned? Honestly, less about school than ourselves.

Our children said they were surprised to discover how hard their parents worked. I come away with a deeper understanding of my children as students — now I know my usually quiet son learns best not alone but in groups, even if that means sitting across from me; and my daughter, it turns out, is far more diligent than her chattiness suggests.

There’s a part of me that will miss them now that they’re gone. But I don’t want them back, not just because that would mean a second wave of the virus; also because school, we now know more than ever, is a beautiful luxury.

Reporting was contributed by Joshua Barone, Ellen Barry, Audra D.S. Burch, Stephen Castle, Damien Cave, Ben Dooley, Jesse Drucker, Melissa Eddy, Jack Ewing, Robert Gebeloff, Sarah Kliff, Mark Landler, Iliana Magra, Apoorva Mandavilli, Jennifer Medina, Raphael Minder, Benjamin Mueller, Mariel Padilla, Michael Paulson, Kai Schultz, Knvul Sheikh, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Ben Sisario, Megan Specia, Michael Wilson and Zachary Woolfe.



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Ivory Coast Children Head Back to School After Virus Shutdown | World News

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ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Thousands of children in face masks flocked back to school in Ivory Coast on Monday after the country became one of the first in West Africa to restart lessons after a two-month coronavirus shutdown.

With a total of 2,376 cases and dozens of new infections each day, Ivory Coast has yet to contain the virus. But authorities are confident pupils can study together in safety after the introduction of extra hygiene measures.

In Abidjan’s Adjame neighbourhood, children in backpacks queued to wash their hands under a teacher’s watchful eye before entering their school, where they sat just one to a desk with bottles of sanitising gel within reach.

“At first we were a little scared. When we saw that the protective measures were being respected, the fear went away,” said 14-year-old Samira Cisse.

Nearby countries are likely to follow closely whether the Ivory Coast’s decision to reopen schools causes a spike in infection. With millions of children still at home, aid agency Save the Children says many could face serious setbacks due to limited options for distance learning in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Ivorian education ministry told Reuters it appreciated the seriousness of its decision.

“We also have an imperative duty to ensure that the children entrusted to us can complete their education,” said ministry official Assoumou Kabran.

Reopening classrooms also means thousands of pupils and their teachers must be ferried back to boarding schools outside Abidjan, epicentre of the epidemic.

French teacher Patrick Yobouet, 38, waited with hundreds of others in a sun-baked stadium to board buses out of the city.

“We’re a bit worried as we leave, because we don’t know if we have the coronavirus or not or if the children are contaminated or not,” he said.

(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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