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Japan closes nearly all schools in bid to contain Wuhan coronavirus

Christian Fernsby |
Many schools across Japan were closed tday as part of a concerted government effort nationwide to contain Wuhan coronavirus and combat its further spread in Japan.

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the school closure plan last Thursday and made the request to local governments to shutter their schools starting Monday and for the schools to remain closed nationwide until early April.

The education ministry subsequently made the request to local education boards, with Japan's Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda on Friday requesting that all children not attending elementary, junior and high schools in the country that have been closed to contain the coronavirus to remain indoors while at home.

"We ask for the cooperation of relevant ministries and agencies so that pupils and students will stay at home in principle and not go outside unless it is necessary," Hagiuda said.

Hagiuda said the decision was made by the government because "experts have been saying schools have a high risk of group infection."

The timing of the nationwide school closures comes a few weeks ahead of the the schools' spring break, scheduled for late March.

The announcement, however, has been met with some uncertainty from teachers, students and parents who have said they have not been given enough time to prepare for the unscheduled break.

In an attempt to mitigate the confusion and help ease the financial burden on parents, Abe said parents who need to take time off work to look after their children during the shutdown will be eligible to receive financial assistance.

The government will cover the costs associated with the extra time children will spend out of school and parents will not be asked to contribute to these costs.

Parents using babysitters will be eligible for increased subsidies, allocated from a monthly maximum of 52,800 yen (488 U.S. dollars) to 264,000 yen (2,439 U.S. dollars) for the whole of March, the Cabinet Office said.

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