Due to the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made an announcement last Thursday, Feb 27, that elementary, junior high and high schools in Japan will be closed starting on Monday, March 2. These schools will also remain closed up until early April, which is when their spring vacation normally ends.
Japan has reported 256 cases of COVID-19 patients, as well as seven deaths from the virus. And the number of cases mentioned above do not even include the 705 passengers that were affected by the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
According to Abe, “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.” He added, “The government attaches the top priority to the health and safety of children, among others.”
Unlike Singapore, as mentioned in another article by The Independent Singapore publication, despite the public clamouring for school closure, the Education Minister, Ong Ye Kung, chose to keep schools open rather than close them for the children’s safety, upsetting many including opposition politician Lim Tean, who called for Kung’s resignation over his “bad judgement call”.
Meanwhile, in Hokkaido, almost all of the 1,600 elementary and junior high schools decided to close ahead of the March 2 schedule, citing the 50 victims that had already tested positive for the disease. Government official Naomichi Suzuki stated, “We will make our best efforts to prevent further spread of infection to protect the lives and health of the people in Hokkaido.” And some other portions of Japan have followed suit with early closure.
The Ochanomizu University in Tokyo also decided to close their affiliated kindergarten, elementary school, and junior and senior high schools ahead of schedule, shutting its doors from Friday, Feb 28 up until the end of spring break. One of the junior high school students affiliated with the University happens to be 13-year old Prince Hisahito, the nephew of Japanese Emperor Naruhito. One of the school officials even said that the choice to close was unusual, but despite how unprecedented, it seems that it is a necessary precaution they are willing to take.
With schools in Japan, China, Vietnam, some in South Korea, and many others taking the initiative to close their doors until April, many have to wonder if others should do the same. Is putting children and adults at risk worth the loss of time in the classroom? Only time will tell. In the meantime, the public is hoping beyond hope that they can trust their government officials to make the right decisions if and when the time comes.
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