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The government plans to keep schools open in prefectures placed under a COVID-19 state of emergency in an effort to avoid interrupting education, officials have said.

Education ministry guidelines say that region-wide school closures due to the pandemic should be avoided from the viewpoint of ensuring healthy learning and for the mental and physical health of children.

Schools “should provide continuous learning with infection prevention measures firmly in place,” education minister Koichi Hagiuda told a news conference on Friday, indicating that the government has no plans to ask prefectures placed under the emergency to shut schools.

In the city of Osaka, the board of education plans to introduce online classes, with some students coming to school for part of the day. For online classes, students will use tablets and other devices distributed to all 160,000 pupils attending municipal elementary and junior high schools.

In one case, elementary schoolchildren will go to school after spending the morning watching videos on each subject at home. Teachers will use handouts during class to check whether the children understood what they studied earlier. After eating lunch at school, the students will return home to study online again. Children can also choose to remain at home for the entire day out of consideration for families who are concerned about infections.

“Schools basically shouldn’t close,” Kyoto Gov. Takatoshi Nishiwaki told a news conference on Wednesday. He added that the prefecture has no plans at present to promote online learning at home.

The Osaka Prefectural Government has asked schools to suspend extracurricular activities and to cancel or postpone school trips.

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