All primary, junior-high and high schools in Japan are to close from Monday to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday.
“I understand every region in the country has been making efforts to prevent the spread of the outbreak. However, these two weeks are extremely important” for Japan to curb a rise in the infections, the premier said.
The schools are set to be closed until the spring break, which starts in late March.
Japan has had to deal with a large number of coronavirus infections, mainly aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked near Tokyo, but also across the rest of the country.
Japanese authorities on Thursday reported the eighth death from Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, and more than a dozen infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to more than 900. Some 705 came from the Diamond Princess.
In Osaka, health officials said late Wednesday that a woman in her 40s, who had been infected with the coronavirus in late January, once again tested positive for the virus. She had tested negative in early February after being discharged from hospital.
The country has cancelled or scaled back several major sports events, including marathons, but said recently that preparations for the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer were proceeding as usual.
The country outside China most badly hit by the virus, South Korea, on Thursday reported 505 new infections.
This was a greater number of new cases than were reported in China that same day.
The new infections bring the total number of cases in South Korea to 1,766. Most of the new infections are located in the south-eastern city of Daegu and the surrounding region. Twelve people have died, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.
The fast-spreading outbreak, which has also hit Cheongdo in North Gyeongsang Province, is the largest outside China, where the new coronavirus started spreading in December 2019.
South Korea and the United States postponed joint training in light of Seoul’s declaration of the highest alert level ‘severe’ on Covid-19, South Korea-US Combined Forces Command (CFC) said in a statement.
Earlier this week, the US military said one of its soldiers was in self-quarantine after testing positive to the virus. The 23-year-old is based at Camp Carroll, located near Daegu. There are 28,500 US military personnel in South Korea.
Most of the country’s cases have been linked to the Shincheonji church near Daegu, and to a hospital in Cheongdo.
China on Thursday reported a slowdown in the number of coronavirus-related deaths, with 29 new casualties counted over the past day. This is the smallest number in almost a month.
There was uproar however at the news that a woman had been able to evade quarantine measures in the locked-down city of Wuhan. The woman was driven to Beijing to join her family where she was diagnosed with the new coronavirus.
Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first found, has been effectively sealed off with flights, trains, buses and private cars banned in the city.
The ex-convict’s story was met with outrage on social media, where people questioned why her family were able to drive her out of the locked-down city.
Addressing speculation that her family was politically well-connected, Ying said laws and regulations must be thoroughly enforced, “no matter whom” they concerned.
The Beijing Municipal Discipline Inspection Commission announced it has launched an investigation meant to “verify whether there are loopholes in the entire process of epidemic prevention and control,” said Xiao Xun, director of a new work group focused on coronavirus prevention.