Canada's Ontario to keep schools closed longer as COVID-19 cases among children rise

Mourners attend a memorial for the victims of a Ukrainian passenger plane which was shot down in Iran
Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends a memorial for the victims of a Ukrainian passenger plane which was shot down in Iran, at Convocation Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 12, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

TORONTO, Jan 7 (Reuters) - The Canadian province of Ontario will keep elementary schools in its southern regions closed for in-person learning until Jan. 25, the provincial government announced on Thursday.

The decision comes as the test positivity rate for COVID-19 - or the proportion of tests that come back as positive - for children under the age of 13 in the province reaches 20%, Premier Doug Ford said earlier on Thursday.

Elementary schools had been scheduled to reopen for in-person classes on Jan. 11, and most secondary schools were due back on Jan. 25. Schools in northern Ontario will reopen for in-person learning on Jan. 11.

Online learning for all students started last Monday.

"One in every five children under the age of 13, they're testing positive. That's not mentioning all the other kids that haven't been tested that might have a runny nose or a cough," Ford told reporters.

"I will never ever put our kids in jeopardy," he added.

The province reported 3,519 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, a record one-day spike. As of Wednesday, Canada had reported 626,799 total cases and 16,369 deaths, up 136 from the previous day.

On Wednesday, Quebec announced an 8 p.m. curfew beginning on Saturday in an attempt to limit the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the province, but in-person learning in primary schools would restart on Monday as planned. read more

Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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