National

Almost 99% of Japan's public elementary schools shut as COVID-19 spreads

JIJI

In line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s request last week that schools nationwide close their doors following the COVID-19 virus outbreak, 98.8 percent of all municipally run elementary schools have started extraordinary breaks, education ministry data has shown.

Of the 19,161 such elementary schools nationwide, 18,923 are now closed, the data showed Wednesday. It showed that 316 elementary and junior high schools in 20 municipalities have decided not to shut.

Among prefectural-run institutions, 3,314 high schools were closed in 46 of the 47 prefectures, excluding Shimane Prefecture, according to the data as of Wednesday. So were 869 special-needs schools in 45 prefectures, excluding Saitama and Shimane.

On Feb. 27, the prime minister called for all elementary, junior high and senior high schools, and special-needs schools, to be closed from Monday in a bid to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

Based on Abe’s request, the ministry last Friday instructed local education boards to shut schools from Monday through the end of spring break, which typically ends in early April, while allowing each local government to make decisions on whether to actually close schools and for how long.

The ministry data included schools closed before Monday and those planning to close on Thursday or later.

Of public institutions, 53 percent of elementary schools, 54 percent of junior high schools and 78 percent of high schools shut their doors on Monday. More public schools followed suit on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The data also showed that 50 percent of elementary and junior high schools, and 32 percent of high schools plan to close for three to four weeks, while 23 percent of elementary and junior high schools, and 20 percent of high schools, plan to do so for two to three weeks.

All national elementary, junior high and high schools, and about 90 percent of privately run elementary, junior high and high schools have decided to close.

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