Japan is closing its schools to prevent the coronavirus’ spread, forcing parents to take time off work

A man visiting a beach in Fujisawa, Japan, on Thursday. Jae C. Hong/AP photo
  • All elementary, junior high, and high schools in Japan are expected to close for more than a month as the country battles the spread of the novel coronavirus.
  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the request Thursday with the number of confirmed cases in the country creeping toward 900.
  • The closings would run from Monday through spring break, which typically ends in early April.
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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has asked all elementary, junior high, and high schools in the country to close from Monday through the students’ spring break, which typically ends in early April, according to Japan Times.

The announcement Thursday came as the number of COVID-19 patients in the country rose above 200, and that doesn’t include the more than 700 infected patients related to the Diamond Princess cruise ship, according to the Associated Press.

“Efforts have been made to prevent the spread of infection among children in each region, and these one or two weeks will be an extremely critical period,” Abe said, according to the Japan Times. “The government attaches the top priority to the health and safety of children, among others.”

The request affects 12.8 million students at 34,847 schools nationwide, the education ministry said, according to the Associated Press.

Most of the 1,600 elementary and junior high schools in Hokkaido decided to close for a week after 50 infections were confirmed in the prefecture.

The move is expected to strike a blow to Japan’s economy, which the Financial Times described as “already on the brink of recession,” as parents are forced to take time off from work to care for their children.

Some schools had already made the decision to close because of concerns over the novel coronavirus.

Ochanomizu University in Tokyo had previously said it would close affiliated schools starting Friday for about a month, and the Kanagawa government decided to exclude parents and guardians from attending graduation and entrance ceremonies.

The coronavirus has already killed 2,800 people and infected more than 82,000. Though the vast majority of cases are in mainland China, at least 40 other countries have recorded cases and deaths.