School closures in Japan based on the Coronavirus crisis creates confusion
Sawako Utsumi and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan announced several days ago that schools would close for a set period related to the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis. Yet, instead of generating a sound policy, it seems that his idea wasn’t supported in some political quarters. Indeed, many politicians and pundits appeared flabbergasted because until this point the Abe administration appeared aloof to the coronavirus situation.
Parents and schools had little inclination that Abe would suddenly announce such a policy. However, when Abe uttered the need to close schools throughout Japan, he provided little substance about why.
After all, for many breadwinners then life is already a struggle. Thus, the added burden of parents needing to stay home with children is problematic. Of course, for each household, the situation will be different. Yet for single parents and two-parent families already struggling financially then the burden will be great.
Skeptical voices have raised reasons of why Abe is suddenly more concerned about the coronavirus crisis. This relates to plummeting confidence in the current Abe administration; the need to protect the Tokyo Olympic Games; the aloofness of Abe and individuals like Shinjiro Koizumi (the Environment Minister) who not only took 12 days of for paternity but also preferred a party rather than an important coronavirus meeting; and other important negative factors. Therefore, Abe’s announcement several days ago about closing schools was met with shock.
Hence, Abe held a press conference on February 29 to clarify his reasons more deeply. He stated, “The next week or two will be a critical time for Japan to see whether we will enter a rapid expansion phase of infections or we will be able to bring it toward an end.”
In relation to the closure of schools, Abe uttered, “It’s heart-breaking to take the step when children would want to spend time and make memories with friends (before graduation).”
Prior to his recent announcement Abe had stated, “The government attaches the top priority to the health and safety of children.”
Overall, the real number of coronavirus cases in Japan is probably higher based on several factors. For example, some hospitals have apparently refused to test patients because of the fear of quarantine. At the same time, several stern conditions must be met prior to testing – unlike in South Korea that will test earlier.
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