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Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed the education ministry on Sunday to come up with ways for students who have been in close contact with those infected by the omicron COVID-19 variant to safely take school entrance examinations without putting others at risk, sources close to Kishida said.

Options may include allowing such people to take tests in separate rooms, according to the sources. Kishida's instructions came at a time when community-acquired omicron infection cases are starting to spread around the country.

With less than a month to go until the Jan. 15-16 unified university entrance exams organized by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, the ministry will rush to research specific measures with experts and announce a decision by the end of the year, the sources said. Kishida is apparently considering measures for high school and junior high school entrance exams as well.

The first case in Japan of the highly transmissible variant was confirmed in late November, and other community-acquired omicron cases have since been found in prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka.

On Dec. 21, Kishida announced a policy that urges people who have been in close contact with those infected with omicron to quarantine at accommodation facilities for 14 days and not at their homes.

Based on this policy, the education ministry on Friday issued guidelines stipulating that such test-takers should attend makeup exams and not be allowed to take regular exams even if they are asymptomatic.

The ministry stance prompted many people online to express sympathy for such test-takers.

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