Coronavirus deprives nearly 300 million students of their schooling - UNESCO

PARIS, March 5 (Reuters) - Almost 300 million students worldwide faced weeks at home on Thursday as authorities closed schools in more than a dozen countries in an attempt to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, UNESCO said.

The coronavirus has spread from China to some 80 nations, infecting over 95,000 people and causing the deaths of more than 3,200.

Italy shut all schools and universities on Thursday until at least March 15 and encouraged online teaching as it tried to slow the rate of contamination in Europe's worst hit country.

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Italy hit with coronavirus outbreak
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Italy hit with coronavirus outbreak
A medical staff with protective mask and suit walks at Dr. Fran Mihaljevic hospital for Infectious Diseases in Zagreb, on February 25, 2020 where a young Croatian man who was infected with the new coronavirus is being monitored. - Croatia reported the first known case of the new coronavirus in the Balkans region after a young man who recently returned from Italy was found to be infected. (Photo by Denis LOVROVIC / AFP) (Photo by DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP via Getty Images)
A banner reading " Thanks for all you are doing for us, you are our guardian angels, everything will be alright ", hangs on the main gate of the Spallanzani Hospital for Infectious Diseases, the Italian main hub for coronavirus treatment, in Rome, Saturday, March 14, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
A staffer walks at one of the emergency structures that were set up to ease procedures at the Brescia hospital, northern Italy, Thursday, March 12, 2020. Italians woke up to yet further virus-containment restrictions after Premier Giuseppe Conte ordered restaurants, cafes and retail shops closed after imposing a nationwide lockdown on personal movement. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Paramedics carry an hazardous medical waste box as patients lie on camping beds, in one of the emergency structures that were set up to ease procedures at the Brescia hospital, northern Italy, Thursday, March 12, 2020. Italians woke up to yet further virus-containment restrictions after Premier Giuseppe Conte ordered restaurants, cafes and retail shops closed after imposing a nationwide lockdown on personal movement. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Foto Roberto Monaldo / LaPresse 09-03-2020 Roma, Italia cronaca Emergenza coronavirus - La situazione nelle strade di Roma Photo Roberto Monaldo / LaPresse 09-03-2020 Rome (Italy) news Coronavirus emergency - The situation in the streets of Rome (Photo by LaPresse/Sipa USA)
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 25: A woman, wearing a respiratory mask, walks past a placard showing a handshake between two hands representing the Chinese and the Italian national flags and reading 'The enemy is the virus, not the people. Go China!' in the Paolo Sarpi district (Milan's Chinatown) on February 25, 2020 in Milan, Italy. The Chinese community of Milan - the largest in Italy, counting 30.000 people, mainly natives of the coastal province of Zhejiang - has decided to shut its stores and commercial activities following the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Italy is the last country to be hit hard by the virus with 7 dead and more than 288 infected as of today. The spread marks Europe’s biggest outbreak, prompting Italian Government to issue draconian safety measures. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 25: A woman, wearing a respiratory mask, walks past a placard showing a handshake between two hands representing the Chinese and the Italian national flags and reading 'The enemy is the virus, not the people. Go China!' in the Paolo Sarpi district (Milan's Chinatown) on February 25, 2020 in Milan, Italy. The Chinese community of Milan - the largest in Italy, counting 30.000 people, mainly natives of the coastal province of Zhejiang - has decided to shut its stores and commercial activities following the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Italy is the last country to be hit hard by the virus with 7 dead and more than 288 infected as of today. The spread marks Europe’s biggest outbreak, prompting Italian Government to issue draconian safety measures. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 25: Three people, wearing a respiratory mask, stroll in the Paolo Sarpi district (Milan's Chinatown) on February 25, 2020 in Milan, Italy. The Chinese community of Milan - the largest in Italy, counting 30.000 people, mainly natives of the coastal province of Zhejiang - has decided to shut its stores and commercial activities following the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Italy is the last country to be hit hard by the virus with 7 dead and more than 288 infected as of today. The spread marks Europe’s biggest outbreak, prompting the Italian Government to issue draconian safety measures. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 25: A woman, wearing a respiratory mask, uses her smartphone as she stands in the Paolo Sarpi district (Milan's Chinatown) on February 25, 2020 in Milan, Italy. The Chinese community of Milan - the largest in Italy, counting 30.000 people, mainly natives of the coastal province of Zhejiang - has decided to shut its stores and commercial activities following the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Italy is the last country to be hit hard by the virus with 7 dead and more than 288 infected as of today. The spread marks Europe’s biggest outbreak, prompting the Italian Government to issue draconian safety measures. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 25: A woman, wearing a respiratory mask, walks past the window of a pharmacy where is sticked a sign reading - both in Italian and Chinese - 'No More Masks' in the Paolo Sarpi district (Milan's Chinatown) on February 25, 2020 in Milan, Italy. The Chinese community of Milan - the largest in Italy, counting 30.000 people, mainly natives of the coastal province of Zhejiang - has decided to shut its stores and commercial activities following the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Italy is the last country to be hit hard by the virus with 7 dead and more than 288 infected as of today. The spread marks Europe’s biggest outbreak, prompting the Italian Government to issue draconian safety measures. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 25: A man, wearing a respiratory mask, rides a bicycle past a shuttered store in the Paolo Sarpi district (Milan's Chinatown) on February 25, 2020 in Milan, Italy. The Chinese community of Milan - the largest in Italy, counting 30.000 people, mainly natives of the coastal province of Zhejiang - has decided to shut its stores and commercial activities following the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Italy is the last country to be hit hard by the virus with 7 dead and more than 288 infected as of today. The spread marks Europe’s biggest outbreak, prompting Italian Government to issue draconian safety measures. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 25: Two people, both wearing a respiratory mask, walk past a shuttered restaurant in the Paolo Sarpi district (Milan's Chinatown) on February 25, 2020 in Milan, Italy. The Chinese community of Milan - the largest in Italy, counting 30.000 people, mainly natives of the coastal province of Zhejiang - has decided to shut its stores and commercial activities following the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Italy is the last country to be hit hard by the virus with 7 dead and more than 288 infected as of today. The spread marks Europe’s biggest outbreak, prompting Italian Government to issue draconian safety measures. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
A man wearing a mask walks outside the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel in La Caleta, on February 25, 2020, where hundreds of people were confined after an Italian tourist was hospitalised with a suspected case of coronavirus. - Tourists staying in a four-star hotel on the Spanish island of Tenerife, in the Canary archipielago, were confined to their rooms today following the announcement of a suspected novel coronavirus, COVID-19, case waiting for official confirmation. This possible case was detected yesterday in Tenerife, where an Italian national passed a first test which turned out to be positive, announced the Spanish Ministry of Health. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP) (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN/AFP via Getty Images)
Medical staff with protective suit gestures at Dr. Fran Mihaljevic hospital for Infectious Diseases in Zagreb, on February 25, 2020 where a young Croatian man who was infected with the new coronavirus is being monitored. - Croatia reported the first known case of the new coronavirus in the Balkans region after a young man who recently returned from Italy was found to be infected. (Photo by Denis LOVROVIC / AFP) (Photo by DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP via Getty Images)
Pharmacies available for sale of sanitizing gel and protective masks, Milan, Italy, on February 25 2020. Due to the spread of the coronavirus many supermarket pharmacies have exhausted the sale of protective masks and sanitizing gels, and there are few that still sell there (Photo by Mairo Cinquetti/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Tourists stand on the balconies of their rooms at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel in La Caleta, on February 25, 2020, where hundreds of people were confined to their rooms after an Italian tourist was hospitalised with a suspected case of coronavirus. - Tourists staying in a four-star hotel on the Spanish island of Tenerife, in the Canary archipielago, were confined to their rooms today following the announcement of a suspected novel coronavirus, COVID-19, case waiting for official confirmation. This possible case was detected yesterday in Tenerife, where an Italian national passed a first test which turned out to be positive, announced the Spanish Ministry of Health. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP) (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN/AFP via Getty Images)
Tourists stand on the balconies of their rooms at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel in La Caleta, on February 25, 2020, where hundreds of people were confined to their rooms after an Italian tourist was hospitalised with a suspected case of coronavirus. - Tourists staying in a four-star hotel on the Spanish island of Tenerife, in the Canary archipielago, were confined to their rooms today following the announcement of a suspected novel coronavirus, COVID-19, case waiting for official confirmation. This possible case was detected yesterday in Tenerife, where an Italian national passed a first test which turned out to be positive, announced the Spanish Ministry of Health. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP) (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN/AFP via Getty Images)
(L-R) State Council Bernhard Tilg, Director of Regional emergency medical services Franz Katzgraber, Director of Internal Medicine at the University Hospital Guenther Weiss and Head of the Institute for Hygiene and Medical Microbiology Cornelia Lass-Floerl give a press conference at the Innsbruck Hospital on the confirmed coronavirus cases in Tyrol on February 25, 2020 in Innsbruck, Austria. - Two people in Austria have tested positive for the new coronavirus, authorities said on February 25, marking the country's first cases after an outbreak in northern Italy. (Photo by Johann GRODER / APA / AFP) / Austria OUT (Photo by JOHANN GRODER/APA/AFP via Getty Images)
Medical staff with protective suit walks at Dr. Fran Mihaljevic hospital for Infectious Diseases in Zagreb, on February 25, 2020 where a young Croatian man who was infected with the new coronavirus is being monitored. - Croatia reported the first known case of the new coronavirus in the Balkans region after a young man who recently returned from Italy was found to be infected. (Photo by Denis LOVROVIC / AFP) (Photo by DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP via Getty Images)
(L-R) State Council Bernhard Tilg, Director of Regional emergency medical services Franz Katzgraber, Director of Internal Medicine at the University Hospital Guenther Weiss and Head of the Institute for Hygiene and Medical Microbiology Cornelia Lass-Floerl give a press conference at the Innsbruck Hospital on the confirmed coronavirus cases in Tyrol on February 25, 2020 in Innsbruck, Austria. - Two people in Austria have tested positive for the new coronavirus, authorities said on February 25, marking the country's first cases after an outbreak in northern Italy. (Photo by Johann GRODER / APA / AFP) / Austria OUT (Photo by JOHANN GRODER/APA/AFP via Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 25, 2020 shows a biohazard sign at the entrance of the quarantine department of Dr. Fran Mihaljevic hospital for Infectious Diseases in Zagreb where a young Croatian man who was infected with the new coronavirus is being monitored. - Croatia reported the first known case of the new coronavirus in the Balkans region after a young man who recently returned from Italy was found to be infected. (Photo by Denis LOVROVIC / AFP) (Photo by DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP via Getty Images)
Medical staff with protective suit gestures at Dr. Fran Mihaljevic hospital for Infectious Diseases in Zagreb, on February 25, 2020 where a young Croatian man who was infected with the new coronavirus is being monitored. - Croatia reported the first known case of the new coronavirus in the Balkans region after a young man who recently returned from Italy was found to be infected. (Photo by Denis LOVROVIC / AFP) (Photo by DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP via Getty Images)
NIORTHWICH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25: A general view of Cransley Independent Day School which has taken the step to close for a week after pupils and staff returned from a skiing trip in the coronavirus hit region of Northern Italy on February 25, 2020 in Northwich, England. The school self imposed the closure after a small number on the skiing trip suffered flu like symptoms. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 25: Two young women, both wearing a respiratory mask, walk in the streets on February 25, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Italy is the last country to be hit hard by the virus with 7 dead and more than 283 infected as of today. The spread marks Europe’s biggest outbreak, prompting the Italian Government to issue draconian safety measures. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 25: Two young men, both wearing a respiratory mask, lend a free floating bicycle on February 25, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Italy is the last country to be hit hard by the virus with 7 dead and more than 283 infected as of today. The spread marks Europe’s biggest outbreak, prompting the Italian Government to issue draconian safety measures. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 25: A young man observes her girlfriend, wearing a respiratory mask, turning her right heel on a mosaic of a bull - as a traditional sign of good luck - in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, on February 25, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Italy is the last country to be hit hard by the virus with 7 dead and more than 283 infected as of today. The spread marks Europe’s biggest outbreak, prompting the Italian Government to issue draconian safety measures. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 25: A man, wearing a respiratory mask, takes a selfie of himself and his girlfiend in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, on February 25, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Italy is the last country to be hit hard by the virus with 7 dead and more than 283 infected as of today. The spread marks Europe’s biggest outbreak, prompting the Italian Government to issue draconian safety measures. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 25: A woman, wearing a respiratory mask, snaps a picture of a window in Via Montenapoleone, Milan's fashion district, on February 25, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Italy is the last country to be hit hard by the virus with 7 dead and more than 283 infected as of today. The spread marks Europe’s biggest outbreak, prompting the Italian Government to issue draconian safety measures. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
A journalist films a board reading "Because of the outbreak in Italy, in order to reduce public activity, Best Express is provisionally closed from February 25 until March 1", on an iron curtain of a shop in the Chinese district of Milan on February 25, 2020. - The decision to close the stores was made by the Chinese community of the city of Milan as a consequence of the current health situation, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Several towns in northern Italy have been put under isolation measures in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus. Seven people in Italy have so far died after catching the virus, all of whom were either elderly or had pre-existing conditions. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)
People wearing respiratory masks walk in a street of the Chinese district of Milan on February 25, 2020. - The decision to close the stores was made by the Chinese community of the city of Milan as a consequence of the current health situation, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Several towns in northern Italy have been put under isolation measures in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus. Seven people in Italy have so far died after catching the virus, all of whom were either elderly or had pre-existing conditions. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)
The parish of the church of Zorlesco village Nunzio Rosi answers questions to a journalist at a check-point at the entrance of the small town of Zorlesco, southeast of Milan, on February 24, 2020, situated in the red zone of the COVID-19, the new coronavirus outbreak, in northern Italy. - Italy, the country with the most confirmed cases in Europe, reports its fifth death and the number of people contracting the disease continues to mount, with 219 people now testing positive. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)
MILAN, Feb. 24, 2020 -- A woman wearing a mask rides a bicycle in Milan, Italy, on Feb. 24, 2020. Six people have died and 222 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus nationwide in Italy, Angelo Borrelli, chief of Civil Protection Department and Extraordinary Commissioner for the Coronavirus Emergency, told a press conference at 6 p.m. local time on Monday. (Photo by Daniele Mascolo/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/ via Getty Images)
The parish of the church of Zorlesco village Nunzio Rosi answers questions to a journalist at a check-point at the entrance of the small town of Zorlesco, southeast of Milan, on February 24, 2020, situated in the red zone of the COVID-19, the new coronavirus outbreak, in northern Italy. - Italy, the country with the most confirmed cases in Europe, reports its fifth death and the number of people contracting the disease continues to mount, with 219 people now testing positive. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)
MILAN, Feb. 24, 2020 -- People wearing masks are seen in Milan, Italy, on Feb. 24, 2020. Six people have died and 222 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus nationwide in Italy, Angelo Borrelli, chief of Civil Protection Department and Extraordinary Commissioner for the Coronavirus Emergency, told a press conference at 6 p.m. local time on Monday. (Photo by Daniele Mascolo/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/ via Getty Images)
A man wearing face mask, in Turin, Italy, on February 24, 2020. More than 220 people were infected by Covid-19 in Italy, with 6 people deaths. Italy is at the third place in the world ranking as infected countries, after China e South Korea. Italy has disposed the closure of schools, university, pubs and imposed a stop to religious functions in Lombardia and Veneto regions. (Photo by Mauro Ujetto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - 2020/02/24: A man wearing a face mask walks with his friend in Corso Como. Precautionary measures, such as wearing face masks have been taken by citizens and tourists in Milan, for dealing with the fear of being infected by Coronavirus (COVID -19), as more than one hundred confirmed cases have been discovered in north Italy and three old people died. According to a regional decree, many activities (educational, cultural, museum tours etc) will be suspended until 1st or 2nd March; thus, people reacted with a massive rush to buy water, food supply and soaps. (Photo by Valeria Ferraro/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - 2020/02/24: A view of Empty shelves in a local supermarket. Precautionary measures, such as wearing face masks have been taken by citizens and tourists in Milan, for dealing with the fear of being infected by Coronavirus (COVID -19), as more than one hundred confirmed cases have been discovered in north Italy and three old people died. According to a regional decree, many activities (educational, cultural, museum tours etc) will be suspended until 1st or 2nd March; thus, people reacted with a massive rush to buy water, food supply and soaps. (Photo by Valeria Ferraro/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Healthcare staff operating in the screening of Coronavirus at the Martini hospital in Turin operate to separate usual patients from potentially infected by Covid-19, in Turin, Italy, on February 24, 2020. More than 220 people were infected by Covid-19 in Italy, with 6 people deaths. Italy is at the third place in the world ranking as infected countries, after China e South Korea. Italy has disposed the closure of schools, university, pubs and imposed a stop to religious functions in Lombardia and Veneto regions. (Photo by Mauro Ujetto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - 2020/02/24: A family wearing face masks stand at the hall of Porta Garibaldi Station. Precautionary measures, such as wearing face masks have been taken by citizens and tourists in Milan, for dealing with the fear of being infected by Coronavirus (COVID -19), as more than one hundred confirmed cases have been discovered in north Italy and three old people died. According to a regional decree, many activities (educational, cultural, museum tours etc) will be suspended until 1st or 2nd March; thus, people reacted with a massive rush to buy water, food supply and soaps. (Photo by Valeria Ferraro/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - 2020/02/24: An Asian woman shops at a local supermarket. Precautionary measures, such as wearing face masks have been taken by citizens and tourists in Milan, for dealing with the fear of being infected by Coronavirus (COVID -19), as more than one hundred confirmed cases have been discovered in north Italy and three old people died. According to a regional decree, many activities (educational, cultural, museum tours etc) will be suspended until 1st or 2nd March; thus, people reacted with a massive rush to buy water, food supply and soaps. (Photo by Valeria Ferraro/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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"The global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education," said Audrey Azoulay, director-general of Paris-based UNESCO.

In a sign of how quickly the virus has spread, China, where the coronavirus outbreak originated, was two weeks ago the only country where school closures were mandated.

Another nine countries has implemented localized school closures, the U.N. agency said. If those countries also ordered nationwide closures, an additional 180 million students would be temporarily prevented from attending school.

(Writing by Richard Lough Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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