, TOKYO, Japan, Feb 27 – Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday urged schools nationwide to close for several weeks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, as authorities reported the country’s fourth death linked to the outbreak.
move comes as crew members from the Diamond Princess, a coronavirus-stricken
cruise ship quarantined off Japan, began leaving the vessel where more than 700
people have tested positive for the disease.
government considers the health and safety of children above anything
else,” Abe said.
request all primary, junior high and high schools… across the nation to close
temporarily from March 2 next week until their spring break.”
spring break for public schools usually starts in late March in Japan and lasts
media said the call would not extend to nurseries and daycare facilities
to prevent the spread of infections among children are being made in various
areas,” Abe added.
public elementary schools and junior high schools in northern Hokkaido, where
the death of a man in his 80s infected with the virus was confirmed on
Thursday, were already closed after a cluster of infections prompted the
governor to request public schools close for about a week.
city of Osaka also said it will close its kindergartens, elementary and junior
high schools from Saturday for two weeks.
call comes after the government urged organisers of major events to consider
cancelling them, and called on businesses to allow employees to work from home
or commute off-peak.
have said the coming two to three weeks will be critical in determining whether
they can stem the outbreak of the virus, which has infected nearly 200 people
in the country.
extremely important to prevent one patient cluster from creating another and we
think we should take thorough measures,” Abe said at a cabinet-level
meeting on the virus.
also urged ministers to work on legislation to minimise the negative impact on
the economy and the daily lives of Japanese.
– Crew leave virus-hit ship –
authorities have progressively stepped up their response to the outbreak, but
faced criticism for acting slowly and for their handling of the Diamond
Princess, where more than 700 people contracted the virus. Four former
passengers have died after becoming ill on board.
passengers have now left the boat, including nearly 1,000 who were allowed to
leave after testing negative. But several have since tested positive for the
virus, and the health ministry admitted others were not tested during the
Thursday, the health ministry said 240 crew members left the boat and more will
disembark in the next couple of days.
leaving the boat will be placed in medical observation for 14 days at
government-designated dormitories before being allowed to leave Japan, they
of crew members remained on the vessel to continue operations while Japanese
officials placed thousands of passengers in a quarantine after the ship arrived
at a port near Tokyo on February 3.
government officials working on the ship have themselves contracted the
infection, but authorities have defended a policy of not uniformly testing
those working on the vessel, arguing that medical experts have the skills to
from the cruise ship, Japan has seen at least 186 cases of infection among the
general population with four deaths.
them is a woman who contracted the virus but was released from hospital after
treatment and a negative test. She was tested again on Wednesday after complaining
of renewed symptoms and was found to be positive again.
woman, a tour guide in her 40s, contracted the virus after coming into contact
with visitors from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.