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Japan closes schools across the country to stop spread of Covid-19

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he has asked schools to remain closed until spring holidays begin in late March.

A man wearing surgical mask walks past a countdown clock outside Tokyo Station for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
A man wearing surgical mask walks past a countdown clock outside Tokyo Station for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Image: Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Zuma Press/PA Images

Updated Feb 27th 2020, 11:17 AM

JAPAN IS ANNOUNCING the closure of schools across the country to help control the spread of Covid-19.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he has asked schools to remain closed until spring holidays begin in late March.

The measure comes amid growing concern about the rise in the number of untraceable cases in northern Japan and elsewhere. Japan now has more than 890 cases, including 705 from a quarantined cruise ship.

Officials in Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido said earlier they were closing all 1,600 elementary and middle schools in the island prefecture, with the governor saying the coming one to two weeks are crucial in fighting the new strain of coronavirus. 

It comes as Japan confirmed that a woman in the country who contracted the virus and was released from hospital after recovering has tested positive again.

The woman in her 40s was first confirmed as infected with the coronavirus on 29 January.

She was working as a guide on a tour bus with tourists from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, in January. The driver of the bus was also diagnosed with the virus.

After being discharged from hospital she tested negative for the virus on 6 February, although she still had a cough at the time.

She had no symptoms a week later, but returned to the doctor on 21 February complaining of a sore throat and chest pains.

Yesterday she tested positive for the coronavirus for a second time, officials said.

At least 186 people in Japan have so far contracted the virus, with four deaths in the country linked to the outbreak.

The latest case was a man in his 80s in northern Hokkaido who had heart and lung diseases, the governor announced today.

Cruise

Aside from domestic cases, at least 705 people have been diagnosed with the virus on board a cruise ship that was quarantined off Japan, including passengers who were allowed to leave the boat after testing negative.

There have been four deaths linked to the virus from the ship.

The government has come under pressure for a relatively hands-off approach to the virus, but today the Osaka prefectural government said it would expand screening of patients to a broader group than currently stipulated by central guidelines.

“We will make sure that people who should be tested, get tested, and will avoid a worst-case scenario by preventing these people from developing symptoms and serious conditions,” Osaka governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said.

© AFP 2020 with reporting by Press Association

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