Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's abrupt decision to call on schools nationwide to shut down starting Monday marked a defining moment in his response to the coronavirus outbreak.

But what prompted it? Critics say the prime minister's aggressive move Thursday may have come in response to mounting political pressure at home and growing international censure over the government's response.

The move that appears on its face to be aimed at containing the virus may also be about containing damage to his reputation regarding crisis management, preparation for the Tokyo Olympics and handling of the struggling economy.