Education systems are failing to reach many children, resulting in a ‘global education emergency.’
Over the past six months, about 1.5 billion children around the world have been told to stay home from school to help minimize transmission of the coronavirus. More than 30 percent of these students — around 463 million — were unable to gain access to remote learning opportunities when their schools closed, according to a report on Wednesday by Unicef, the United Nations agency for children.
“The sheer number of children whose education was completely disrupted for months on end is a global education emergency,” Henrietta Fore, the executive director of Unicef, said in a statement. “The repercussions could be felt in economies and societies for decades to come.”
Schoolchildren in sub-Saharan Africa have been the most affected, the report said, as education systems there have failed to reach about half of all students through television, radio, internet or other forms of remote learning. Many children in the region have gone without classes of any kind since March, according to a separate report published Wednesday by Human Rights Watch.
In part to address this unequal access, education officials in Kenya said last month that they were canceling the academic year and making students repeat it.
Forty percent of students in the Middle East and North Africa, 38 percent in South Asia and 34 percent in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have also been unable to learn remotely, according to the Unicef report, which said children in rural areas had been disproportionately affected.
In general, students from higher-income households with more-educated parents seem to be faring better at studying at home, researchers around the world have found. This has reinforced concerns that school closures may be yet another way that longstanding inequalities will be exacerbated by the pandemic.
With winds of 150 miles per hour, Laura was among the strongest storms to ever hit the United States, according to data compiled by Philip Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State University who studies hurricanes. Forecasters have also warned of an “unsurvivable” storm surge that could push as far as 40 miles inland.
The hurricane was preceded by tough decisions about fleeing and an urgent push to get people out of harm’s way, with more than 500,000 residents in Louisiana and Texas urged to leave their homes.
Although large shelters have been set up throughout the hurricane zone, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas had encouraged evacuees to consider booking rooms in hotels and motels instead of using shelters, as a safer way to isolate themselves from others who might be infected with the coronavirus.
Officials said buses used for evacuations would carry fewer people than in the past, to let riders stay a safe distance from one another. Planners were bringing in more buses than in previous disasters, to make up for having fewer people on each bus.
Traditional shelters like gymnasiums and convention centers that have hosted hundreds of evacuees in past disasters would be set up to provide “layers of separation” between the occupants, Mr. Abbott said. The shelters and buses will be supplied with hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment like face masks, and state officials plan to dispatch testing teams to the larger shelters.
“The state and local governments are fully aware that they are dealing with a pandemic while they are responding to Hurricane Laura,” the governor said.
The Justice Department has asked New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania for information about steps their governors took in response to the pandemic to determine whether they may have contributed to the spread of the disease in nursing homes.
The department said that directives by the governors, all Democrats, may have allowed people admission to elder-care facilities without adequate testing.
It cited a March 25 order from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York that no nursing home resident could be denied admission or readmission “solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of Covid-19.”
The department said that it might open a formal investigation, depending on the information it receives from the states.
“The Civil Rights Division seeks to determine if the state orders requiring admission of Covid-19 patients to nursing homes is responsible for the deaths of nursing home residents,” the department said in a statement Wednesday.
The request for information comes at a delicate time for Mr. Cuomo.
Republicans in the state Legislature and in Washington have said that his policies were to blame for 6,500 coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes and other care facilities, a death toll that is much higher than those in other states.
About 40 percent of the nearly 180,000 deaths in the United States attributed to the coronavirus have been connected to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to a New York Times database.
According to Mr. Cuomo’s office, New York, New Jersey and Michigan are in a group of eight states that include presumed Covid-19 fatalities, rather than just confirmed ones, in their total of nursing home deaths.
The questions, and any subsequent federal investigation, would apply only to facilities run or owned by the state, the governor’s office said, which is a small percentage of the total.
Mr. Cuomo said that infected health care workers, not his policies, helped spread the virus among the state’s nursing homes.
He issued a joint statement with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan calling the effort “nothing more than a transparent politicization of the Department of Justice in the middle of the Republican National Convention.”
The statement also noted: “At least 14 states — including Kentucky, Utah and Arizona — have issued similar nursing guidance all based on federal guidelines, and yet the four states listed in the D.O.J.’s request have a Democratic governor.”
The statement also suggested that the department should send a similar letter to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “since the state’s advisories were modeled after their guidance.”
Vice President Mike Pence and other speakers on the third night of the Republican National Convention on Wednesday sought to rewrite the history of how President Trump has handled the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 180,000 Americans and counting.
“Before the first case of the coronavirus spread within the United States, the president took unprecedented action and suspended all travel from China, the second-largest economy in the world,” Mr. Pence said, speaking to a crowd at Fort McHenry in Baltimore that did not appear to be socially distanced or wearing masks.
Yet by April, 40,000 people had traveled to the United States from China since Mr. Trump imposed his travel ban on Jan. 31, which did not apply to Americans and some others. Many of those passengers received minimal health screening.
Mr. Pence also said Mr. Trump had “marshaled the full resources of our federal government from the outset,” adding, “He directed us to forge a seamless partnership with governors across America in both political parties.”
This would come as a surprise to Democratic governors in Illinois, New York and Washington State, among others, who were attacked by Mr. Trump after they criticized the federal government over its lack of assistance.
Representative Lee Zeldin of New York, a rising star in the Republican Party, praised Mr. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for providing his district in Suffolk County and New York City with personal protective equipment for medical workers caring for coronavirus patients.
“Jared Kushner and I were on the phone late” one Saturday night, Mr. Zeldin said. “The very next day, President Trump announced he was sending us 200,000 N95 masks. He actually delivered more than 400,000.”
Mr. Zeldin’s praise for the Trump administration neglects to mention what was a nationwide shortage in medical-grade masks and other protective equipment for doctors and nurses. He also said that New York’s hospitals were able to handle all the patients affected by the pandemic — a claim that does not comport with how the pandemic played out in New York this spring.
Face masks could soon be required in all public places in Paris amid a recent surge in the number of coronavirus cases, the prime minister of France said on Thursday, as he vowed that the government was ready for a second wave but that the French would have to learn to “live with the virus.”
Prime Minister Jean Castex said at a news conference that the authorities were working on extending mandatory mask-wearing to all of Paris, where it is now required only in certain areas.
Mr. Castex’s office later said a final decision would be reached in the coming days. A growing number of France’s largest cities, including Marseille, Nice and Toulouse, have required face masks outdoors and in public places over the past week.
“The virus is gaining ground,” Mr. Castex said, noting that France’s R0 value — which represents the number of new infections estimated to stem from a single case — was currently at about 1.4. It had peaked at 3 during the spring, but had dropped to 0.7 in May, when a strict nationwide lockdown was lifted, he said.
Mr. Castex sought to reassure the French that the country was now much better equipped to face the virus. Unlike this spring, he noted, widespread testing is detecting more cases, many in young people. And he said the elderly or vulnerable populations are better protected. Over 800,000 people were tested over the past seven days, and Olivier Véran, the health minister, said on Thursday that the authorities had set one million weekly tests as a new goal.
But Mr. Castex also warned the French against complacency, asking them to avoid large gatherings and to wear masks, and said the local authorities could tighten restrictions if needed.
Noting that most people were infected in private settings, he said that people should avoid family parties and that “grandpa and grandma” shouldn’t be picking up kids from school. Millions of French children are returning to classes next week, and those older than 11 — as well as all adults — will have to wear face masks. So will university students and teachers.
“Sounding the alarm doesn’t mean we are in a dire situation,” Mr. Castex said, but he warned that “the growth of the epidemic can be exponential if we don’t react quickly.”
As the epidemic surges, the South Korean government blames churches and striking doctors.
South Korea reported 441 new cases on Thursday, its highest daily total since early March, as the government criticized what it called two great obstacles in fighting the virus: doctors on strike and churches obstructing epidemiological efforts.
South Korea has reported three-digit daily jumps in infections since Aug. 14. The country’s National Assembly came to a halt on Thursday with more than a dozen senior members of the governing Democratic Party in self-isolation after contact with a photojournalist who tested positive for the virus.
Also on Thursday, South Korea’s central bank cut its economic growth outlook, forecasting a 1.3 percent contraction in 2020. That would be its worst performance since after the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.
About half of the infections discovered this month have spread from churches, including 959 found among members of Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul and their contacts. The government ordered all churches to shut down and switch to online prayer services starting last Sunday, but some churches defied the order.
On Thursday, President Moon Jae-in voiced anger and frustration with Sarang Jeil Church, a center of right-wing, faith-based political activism against the government. Some of the church members have claimed that the health authorities manipulated test results to keep government critics in quarantine. The church’s chief pastor, the Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon, claimed that the outbreak at his church was the result of a “terrorist attack.”
The government called the claims “disinformation.”
“They should have apologized to the people but instead, they are spreading conspiracy theories,” Mr. Moon said during a meeting with church leaders on Thursday.
Mr. Moon also excoriated doctors who went on strike Wednesday over plans to increase the number of medical students by 4,000 over the next decade. Hospitals in Seoul reported bottlenecks on Thursday because of the strike. The government says the increased number of students would help the country deal with crises like the pandemic, but doctors argue that they are already operating amid cutthroat competition.
“Doctors abandoning their work during the Covid-19 crisis is like soldiers deserting from battlefields,” Mr. Moon said. “It’s like firefighters going on strike while a big fire is raging.”
In other developments around the world:
In Britain, the government said it would start to pay people in low income areas with high numbers of coronavirus cases who have to quarantine and cannot work from home. Payments of up to 182 pounds (about $240) will be made to people who have tested positive for Covid-19 as well as to their contacts if they meet certain criteria. A trial will start on Tuesday.
One of Belgium’s most famous virologists, Marc van Ranst, said he was being sued by six entrepreneurs for making what they said were reckless claims about the pandemic that hurt the economy. Among the examples, he said, was his advice last month that people should postpone a visit to Antwerp until the pandemic there was more under control.
The Jakarta Post, Indonesia’s most prominent English-language newspaper, is preparing to lay off more than half its staff because of financial problems aggravated by the pandemic. In a memo to the staff, the employees’ council noted that the newspaper’s print circulation had fallen to 6,000 and said that layoffs would begin as early as this week.
Doctors in the public hospitals in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, have ended their weeklong strike over shoddy protective gear, lack of insurance coverage and delayed salaries. The return to work announcement came after the Nairobi county government and the doctors’ union struck a deal that saw the resolution of most of the health workers’ concerns.
Weekly unemployment claims in the U.S. are again expected to hit one million.
When weekly filings for state unemployment benefits dipped below one million this month, it looked like a glimmer of hope in an otherwise gloomy job market. But the break in the clouds didn’t last long: Data from the Labor Department last week showed that new filings for state benefits had jumped to 1.1 million.
The latest report, which will be released at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, is expected to show another week of million-plus claims, according to economists surveyed by FactSet.
Economists say it is too soon to know whether the uptick in filings is a blip or reflects a sustained increase in layoffs. But there is ample evidence that the economic recovery has slowed since the spring. Job growth slowed in July, and real-time data from private-sector sources suggests that hiring has slumped further in August. On Tuesday, American Airlines said it would furlough 19,000 workers on Oct. 1, the latest in a string of such announcements from major corporations.
“It is worrying because it does signal that these large companies are pessimistic about the state of the recovery and don’t think that we are going to be returning to normal anytime soon,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the career site Glassdoor.
Unemployment filings have fallen sharply since early April, when 6.6 million applied for benefits in a single week. But even after that decline, weekly filings far exceed any previous period. Roughly 30 million Americans are receiving benefits under various state and federal programs.
The continued high rate of job losses comes as government support for the unemployed is waning. The $600-a-week federal supplement to state unemployment benefits expired at the end of July, and efforts to replace it have stalled in Congress. President Trump recently announced he was using his executive authority to give jobless workers an additional $300 or $400 a week, but few states have begun paying out the new benefit, and the $44 billion allocated to the program is expected to last only a few weeks.
Economists warn that the loss of federal support could act as a brake on the recovery. Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist for the forecasting firm Oxford Economics, estimated that the lapse in extra unemployment benefits would reduce household income by $45 billion in August. That could lead to a drop in consumer spending and further layoffs, she said.
For more than a year, the Federal Reserve has wrestled with how to achieve its twin goals — maximum employment and stable inflation — in an era of tepid price increases and very low interest rates.
While not a major kitchen table topic, the Fed’s approach to monetary policy affects every household in America. When it lifts or lowers interest rates to slow or speed growth, it changes the cost of mortgages and car loans. Because its policies help to determine economic strength, they inform how many jobs are available and how long expansions last.
On Thursday, Chair Jerome H. Powell will have a chance to update America on the central bank’s soon-to-conclude framework review in a speech at the Kansas City Fed’s annual conference.
The storied gathering of elite economists has been held behind closed doors in Jackson Hole, Wyo., since 1982. Because of the pandemic, though, the event will be held remotely and streamed on the Kansas City Fed’s YouTube page this year, allowing the public to tune in for the first time ever.
Mr. Powell, who is scheduled to speak at 9:10 a.m., is expected to summarize what the Fed has discovered as it has spent 21 months discussing its future policy approach. He may stop short of offering up the full set of final results — the central bank has hinted that will happen when it updates its long-run policy statement, an outline of overarching principles that officials usually release in January but which many economists expect them to revamp at their Sept. 15-16 meeting.
Fed watchers expect the central bank to shift from targeting 2 percent inflation exactly to a more flexible approach, such as aiming for 2 percent on average over time. The exact details remain unclear, but the adjustment could lay the groundwork for long periods of near-zero interest rates and very low unemployment.
Planned demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions scheduled for the weekend in Berlin were canceled after city authorities said on Wednesday that the gatherings would likely break social-distancing rules. Far-right extremist groups and the AfD, the far-right parliamentary party, had advertised the demonstrations.
“I am not prepared to accept that Berlin is misused as a stage for Corona deniers, Reich citizens and right-wing extremists for a second time,” said Andreas Geisel, the city official responsible for public safety, referring to a group of extremists that doesn’t accept the legitimacy of the modern German state. Several thousand protesters marched at a similar demonstration in Berlin on Aug. 1.
The city’s move has been criticized by those who think a ban could energize those who already think the state is overreaching on restrictions related the virus and could ultimately lead to more dangerous illegal demonstrations.
Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with state governors on Thursday to discuss new virus rules as the number of cases has grown over the last month. The officials are expected to agree on stricter quarantine rules for people entering the country from “high risk” areas. The government also plans to discontinue free tests for travelers arriving from states not considered high risk for the virus.
Last week the country’s health authority found that nearly 40 percent of new cases came from abroad. On Wednesday, 1,507 new infections were registered. Last Friday, the country registered more than 2,000 infections in a single day, a figure last seen at the end of April. Germany has had at least 237,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 9,285 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
A tribal leader in Malawi has ordered child marriages that took place during lockdown to be dissolved.
A traditional leader in Malawi has ordered village chiefs to dissolve all child marriages that took place during the coronavirus lockdown so that children can return to classes set to start in September, after the illegal but persistent tradition increased during the pandemic in the southern African nation.
Theresa Kachindamoto, the paramount ruler of the Dedza District in central Malawi, said she and others had been advising villagers “to take care of the children so that they can return to school when they reopen because that’s where the children’s future is,” according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Ms. Kachindamoto has informal authority over some 900,000 citizens, and has campaigned for years to end the practice of child marriages, particularly for girls.
“I removed some chiefs before for the same reason, so chiefs know the consequences of not adhering to my directive,” she added.
High rates of early marriage persist despite a 2015 ban, with almost half of all Malawian girls married before they turn 18.
Malawi has recorded at least 5,400 cases of the coronavirus, with 173 deaths, according to a New York Times database. A spike in cases and a shortage of testing kits forced the government to push back school opening dates by several weeks until September.
Reporting was contributed by Katie Benner, Chelsea Brasted, Aurelien Breeden, Alexander Burns, Ben Casselman, Choe Sang-Hun, Abdi Latif Dahir, Reid J. Epstein, Jonathan Martin, Jesse McKinley, Claire Moses, Heather Murphy, Richard C. Paddock, Campbell Robertson, Rick Rojas, Dana Rubinstein, Christopher F. Schuetze, Dera Menra Sijabat, Jenna Smialek, Eileen Sullivan and Carl Zimmer.