Japan Announces Nationwide School Closings Amid Coronavirus Spread

The country’s prime minister said the move is to “prioritize the health and safety of the children.”

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Japan announced its decision to shut down all schools for about a month in an effort to contain the novel strain of coronavirus (COVID-19). 

On Thursday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for the closing of all elementary, junior, and high schools nationwide. He did not mention universities or preschools/ daycares. Several local communities and governments announced similar closures just hours before. 12.8 million students will be affected by the new decision. 

Nearly 900 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Japan, including four deaths, with 705 of those cases coming from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off of the coast of Yokohama. 

“The coming week or two is an extremely important time,” the prime minister said. “This is to prioritize the health and safety of the children and take precautions to avoid the risk of possible large-scale infections for many children and teachers who gather and spend hours together every day.”

The pressure on Japan continues to grow with the approaching 2020 Olympic games—which are set to be held in Tokyo in late July. With COVID-19 becoming an international epidemic, concerns over whether the largest sporting event in the world will go on have grown. Officials say the Olympics are still on schedule, with the first ceremony of the torch taking place in March.

The coronavirus has infected more than 80,000 people worldwide and has led to at least 2,700 deaths since its discovery in December. Most of the cases have come out of China—specifically in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus. Iran, Italy, and South Korea are some of the latest countries to experience a spike in confirmed cases. 

NowThis spoke with an infectious disease doctor about what you should know about the coronavirus. Read more here. 

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