02/28/2020, 10.28
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Coronavirus, Tokyo closes schools to tackle epidemic

From March 2  until April, 13 million students will remain at home. The government measure takes parents and institutions by surprise. Confusion in local administrations. Yesterday the number of infections in the country exceeded 200. In the count Tokyo does not include infected passengers from the Diamond Princess. The archdiocese of Tokyo suspends public masses.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - After the surprise, controversy and confusion: Japanese politicians, parents and teachers are furious at the measure launched by the government to counter the spread of coronavirus in the Land of the Rising Sun. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced yesterday that around 13 million young people will remain at home for the closure of the entire school system, starting next week and until early April.

"By placing the health and safety of children above all else - said the premier - we will ask every elementary, junior and and high school in Japan to stop teaching activities temporarily, from March 2 until the spring holidays". For Japanese students, the school year ends in March; usually, the break period starts in the last week of the month.

The government measure caught parents and institutions by surprise. Confusion also reigns in local governments: Kyoto city council said that on March 2, schools in the western Japanese city will be open as normal. Then the school board said it would decide later what to do with school activities in the following days. The mayor of Chiba, Toshihito Kumagai, expressed strong concern by declaring that the closure of the school "could cause a collapse of Japanese society". Noting that it is difficult for workers in medical institutions to take care of their children at home, the mayor of the populous city near Tokyo said he is considering allowing children, mainly younger students and those with disabilities, to stay in school if parents cannot take care of them at home.

Japanese health authorities say that yesterday the number of infections in the country exceeded 200, an increase compared to the official count of 186 the previous day. At the moment, the disease has killed eight people. On the northern island of Hokkaido, 15 new cases have been confirmed, including two children under the age of 10. The government-reported infections do not include the 705 detected on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has been quarantined in the port of Yokohama since the beginning of the month. The one on the boat remains the main hotbed in the country. The Ministry of Health explained that around 240 foreign and Japanese crew members who tested negative for the virus will be disembarked from the ship in the next few days. Those without symptoms will remain in a medical facility near Tokyo for further monitoring, the ministry said in a statement.

The Japanese Church is supporting the government efforts against Covid-19. Two days ago, the administration announced that for the next two weeks, sporting or cultural events with a large number of people will be suspended, postponed or reduced in order to prevent the spread of the infection. On the same day, the Archdiocese of Tokyo announced the suspension of public masses between February 27 and March 14. “We absolutely believe in the power of prayers - reads the note signed by Msgr. Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi -. Nothing can stop us from praying, just because the infections spread widely. Among the various practical measures to be taken to combat Covid-19, it makes no sense to have a Church in this world if we don't include our spiritual response. "

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