Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for all schools in the country to close from Monday until the end of their spring holidays, taking the unprecedented move in a bid to combat further spread of the coronavirus.
The closure will apply to all elementary, junior high, senior high and special needs schools nationwide, and would keep around 13 million students across the country at home for at least a month, according to statistics from the education ministry.
“We are placing the safety and health of children first,” Abe said at a meeting of a government task force in Tokyo on Thursday. He called for the steps “to reduce the risk of a large-scale infection coming from children and teachers gathering together for long periods of time.”
After being heavily criticized for a slow response to the spread of the infection in Japan, the government is moving to take more urgent steps as the number of cases in the country surge. Thursday saw 13 new infections in the northern island of Hokkaido alone, bringing Japan’s total past 200, a figure that doesn’t include the 705 infected from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.