Japan to shut schools to protect 13m children from deadly virus

China | 28 Feb 2020 2:40 pm

Japan’s schools prepared to close for almost a month and entertainers, topped by K-pop superstars BTS, canceled events as a coronavirus epidemic that spread from Wuhan in China  extended its spread through Asia into Europe and today, into sub-Saharan Africa.

The expectation that Japan would close all its elementary, secondary and high schools will send nearly 13 million children home and leave few people untouched by the virus in the world’s third-biggest economy. Sporting events and concerts in Japan have already been canceled, and Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea said, too, they would close until mid-March.

But the illnesss caused by a new coronavirus that emerged in December in the Chinese city of Wuhan has now stretched well beyond Asia and taken on a distinctly global character. Saudi Arabia cut travel to Islam’s holiest sites as cases in the Middle East reach into the hundreds. Italy’s surging outbreak was causing illnesses in other countries, including Nigeria, which confirmed the first sub-Saharan case on Friday.

The global count of those infected exceeds 83,000, with China still by far the hardest-hit country. But South Korea has surged past 2,000 cases, and other countries have climbing caseloads and deaths. Iran, with 26 deaths and more than 250 cases, has the most in the Middle East and travel there was connected to cases in countries as far away as New Zealand.

The cancellations of BTS’s concerts in Seoul will resonate in South Korea, which sees the internationally followed group as an emblem of its cultural and economic power. The band’s management agency said the scale of the outbreak in April, when the concerts were scheduled, couldn’t be predicted, and the large numbers of crew and concertgoers would have been a concern.

U.S. rock band Green Day postponed upcoming Asia shows as well, and the U.S.’s National Symphony Orchestra canceled performances in Japan, after earlier canceling concerts in Beijing and Shanghai.

The closure of Disney resorts in Japan will last through March 15, their Japanese operator, Oriental Land Co., said today. Disney parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai remain closed.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had called for all schools to close until late March, though the decisions to do so were being made locally.

“The most important thing is to prevent infections, so there aren’t many other options,” said Norinobu Sawada, vice principal of Koizumi primary school.

In China’s epicenter around Wuhan, schools, public transit, offices and factories have been closed for weeks as the ruling Communist Party moved to contain the virus. Its National Health Commission reported 327 new cases and 44 deaths over the previous 24 hours, raising its totals to 78,824 with 2,788 deaths.

The figures continue a downward trend for the hardest-hit nation, and show most of the new cases and deaths were still in Wuhan, where the disease emerged in December.-AP


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