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The central government is not considering blanket closures of schools to curb the rapid spread of COVID-19, education minister Koichi Hagiuda has said.

“The government will not seek such blanket school closures,” Hagiuda told a news conference Friday in reference to elementary, middle and high schools.

Still, he said that his ministry will respect decisions made by local governments to extend summer breaks or close schools on a temporary basis, given regional differences in infection situations.

“We will protect children’s opportunities for learning as much as possible,” Hagiuda said, calling for continuing education by utilizing online classes and other technology to help prevent the spread of the virus.

In February last year, the government requested temporary closures of elementary, junior high and high schools across the country after the coronavirus outbreak. Since then, the government has not sought such blanket school closures.

Later Friday, Hagiuda and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga confirmed the policy of not seeking blanket school closures.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Suga, Hagiuda said the education ministry will provide elementary and junior high schools with coronavirus antigen test kits in addition to high schools that already receive the kits.

He also said the ministry will build a system to help institutions quickly respond to in-school infections.

The ministry notified prefectural education boards and others of its advice on dealing with the pandemic, including how best to prevent the spread of the highly infectious delta variant of the virus.

In its notification, the ministry called for thorough precautions against the coronavirus, including promoting vaccinations among teachers and other school staff.

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