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Tokyo, February 27, 2020
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday that his government will request all elementary, junior high and high schools in the country to shut from Monday until the end of the spring break amid concern over novel coronavirus, Kyodo reported.
Nursery schools will be excluded from the nationwide closure request, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare.
Japan will be the second country after China to close schools after the outbreak of the pneumonia-causing virus.
In a meeting of a government task force to fight the COVID-19, Abe asked the government to "prepare necessary legislation to curb the spread of infections and minimise the impact on the lives of people as well as the economy."
The ministry said it will also ask the operators of after-school clubs for elementary school pupils to open the facilities.
Japan's school year ends in March and a new academic year typically starts in early April.
Abe's announcement came as confirmed COVID-19 patients increased in Japan to 914 as of Thursday evening, including over 700 from the Diamond Princess, a virus-hit cruise ship docked in Yokohama near Tokyo.
On Wednesday, Abe asked organizers of big sports and cultural events scheduled for the next two weeks to consider cancelling or postponing them during what the government said is a "critical time" for Japan.
The government has however pledged that this summer's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will go ahead as scheduled.