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Let's discuss emergency school closures

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KYODO

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday asked all elementary, junior high and high schools nationwide to close from Monday through the students’ spring break, which typically ends in early April.

“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 told a meeting of key Cabinet ministers on the coronavirus outbreak crisis.

“The government attaches the top priority to the health and safety of children, among others,” he said.

Later Thursday, the health and welfare ministry said Abe’s request does not apply to day care centers for children and after-school facilities for elementary school students.

Abe’s surprise announcement came as the number of confirmed COVID-19 virus patients kept surging, exceeding 200 across Japan as of Thursday evening, excluding the more than 700 infected patients related to the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Most of the 1,600 elementary and junior high schools in Hokkaido decided to close for a week the same day in an effort to slow the ongoing coronavirus outbreak .

The action came a day after the Hokkaido education board urged local authorities to temporarily close all public and private elementary and junior high schools in an effort to contain the spread of the virus as over 50 infections have been confirmed in the prefecture, including some students.

“We will make our best efforts to prevent further spread of infection to protect the lives and health of the people in Hokkaido,” Gov. Naomichi Suzuki said during a prefectural assembly session.

Ochanomizu University in Tokyo had already said it will close affiliated schools from Friday for about a month until early April, including a spring break. Prince Hisahito, the 13-year-old nephew of Emperor Naruhito, attends the junior high school affiliated with the university.

First published in The Japan Times on Feb. 27

Warm up

One-minute chat about your school days.

Game

Collect words related to school, e.g., students, teachers, class, study, etc.

New words

1) outbreak: a sudden occurrence of something unwelcome, e.g., “An outbreak of fighting in Syria caused families to flee.”

2) urge: try hard to persuade someone to do something, e.g., “The teacher urged the students to study more after school.”

2) unprecedented: never done before, e.g., “The law to allow gay marriage was unprecedented.”

Guess the headline

All schools in Japan told to close until A_ _ _ _ over virus o_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Questions

1) What is the request for?

2) Did people expect the announcement from the prime minister?

3) What is the situation in Hokkaido?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What do you think of the announcement?

2) What do you think is needed for the coronavirus outbreak measure?

Reference

コロナウイルスの感染拡大に対する政府の対応の遅さなどが指摘される中で、首相による公立学校の休校要請のアナウンスメントは驚きと混乱を持って迎えられました。感染の拡大を防ぐ一定の効果が見込まれる一方で、あまりにも突然の方針発表であること、また3月という時期は多くの子ども、親や学校関係者にとって失うものが多くあるという懸念があります。経済への影響や子どもたちの精神的ストレス、そして健康や安全などあらゆる要素を天秤にかけて考えた時、何が最善だったのでしょうか。朝英語の会に参加し皆さんで話し合ってみましょう。

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