Japan closing all schools amid coronavirus crisis with more than 12 million pupils affected

Rebecca Speare-Cole
Elementary school students make their way home on February 27, 2020 in Ichikawa, Japan: Getty Images

Japan is closing all schools across the country to help control the spread of the new coronavirus.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has asked for all elementary, middle and high schools to close until late March when spring holidays begin.

The measure affects 12.8 million students at 34,847 schools nationwide, the education ministry said.

Mr Abe said: "The coming week or two is an extremely important time."

"This is to prioritise the health and safety of the children and take precautions to avoid the risk of possible large-scale infections for many children and teachers who gather and spend hours together every day."

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced the closure of schools in the country (JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images)

The decision comes amid growing concern about the rise in the number of untraceable cases of the virus in northern Japan and elsewhere.

Japan now has more than 890 cases, including 705 from the previously quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship.

A closed junior high school that has become one of the first schools in Japan to close amid increasing concerns about the spread of Covid-19 (Getty Images)

An eighth death from the virus was confirmed Thursday in Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido, now considered a site of growing cluster.

A Japanese woman in Osaka has also tested positive for the virus for a second time after recovering from the first bout in late January.

Mr Abe's announcement came hours after several local governments announced their own decisions to suspend classes.

Officials in the northernmost main island of Hokkaido said they were closing all 1,600 elementary and middle schools.

Hokkaido now has 54 confirmed cases, the largest in in the country outside the cruise ship.

The emergency school closures come as schools were busy preparing for graduation ceremonies at the end of the school year.

Koizumi primary school Vice Principal Norinobu Sawada said the decision to suspend classes was unavoidable.

Worldwide the infection, which broke out in China, has infected more than 80,000 people.

It has killed nearly 2,800.

The majority of deaths and infections have been in mainland China.

Read more

Woman tests positive for coronavirus for second time after recovering