• Kyodo

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The Okinawa Prefectural Government began shutting high schools Monday in hope of preventing further spread of COVID-19 infections among young people.

The measure, effective through June 20, comes as the prefecture — which is already under a COVID-19 state of emergency — reports clusters of infections at schools and child care facilities.

Okinawa saw its highest single-day new case totals in late May, with 335 reported infections on May 29, as it battled the most recent wave sweeping Japan.

Some high schools in areas where fewer cases have been reported remain open.

Elementary and junior high schools in the prefectural capital of Naha and other cities and villages will also be closed temporarily from Tuesday, in line with a request by the prefectural government.

The local education board is considering shortening the summer vacation to make up for missed classroom time, as it did last year after schools were shut due to the pandemic.

"Many young people have been infected. We can blame only adults (for the pandemic)," said a 17-year-old high school student in Naha.

"We don't know yet what will happen to our classes. I'm worried that it might affect my preparations for entrance exams."

A mother from the city of Urasoe said that, like last year, her 9-year-old son's elementary school would offer online classes.

The lack of in-person schooling did not seem to have much impact as children are used to doing things online anyway, such as playing games, she said.

In February last year, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe abruptly called on all of Japan's 47 prefectures to close elementary, junior high and high schools due to the pandemic, causing parents to scramble to organize ways to look after their children.

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