National

Guidelines on curbing virus issued as Japan's schools set to reopen

Kyodo

The education ministry on Tuesday issued guidelines to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection in schools that are scheduled to reopen in April after monthlong closures, calling for thorough ventilation of classrooms and warning against gathering in clusters.

The guidelines also request that students and staff avoid conversing with others at close quarters, check their body temperature frequently and wear face masks.

If an infection is confirmed, the infected individual and those who were in close contact are to be suspended, according to the guidelines. Temporary closure of classes or the entire school will also be recommended.

“The situation has not improved. We want (schools) to prepare (for reopening) without lowering their guard,” education minister Koichi Hagiuda told a news conference Tuesday.

The ministry asked education boards across the country on Feb. 28 to close their schools until the end of the spring break in early April as part of efforts to contain the virus outbreak.

But the request targeting elementary, junior high and high schools in the country was not mandatory and it was left to local authorities to decide how long the suspension should last.

Some elementary and junior high schools resumed classes on March 16, about two weeks after shutdown.

Hagiuda also said the government could ask schools to close again if there is an explosive surge in infections.

“We want schools to carefully consult with the prefectural governments” in deciding when to reopen classes, taking into consideration how the virus has been spreading locally, the minister told a Diet session.

The guidelines also call for thorough hand-washing before eating lunch. Hagiuda said the schools will be recommended that they use checklists of measures against virus infection that are to be distributed to them by the ministry.

Meanwhile, many elementary schools nationwide held ceremonies Tuesday to mark the end of the current school year.

At Katsushika Elementary School in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward, the school held a ceremony in the playground instead of the gym and made sure students stood apart from each other.

“I’ve been so bored staying at home. I could see my friends for the first time in a while,” said fourth grader Ryohei Horikiri.

A mother who came to pick up her daughter at the school, meanwhile, expressed concerns over the spread of the virus after schools reopen in April. “Kids will be happy when schools resume, but I think we should wait until things get under control,” she said.

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