The new coronavirus, also called COVID-19, already has the world on edge. Even as health officials around the globe fight to contain the spread, nobody is sure exactly how long this whole scare will last, or how much damage it will do before it finally subsides.
Now, in a major move from one of the hardest-hit countries, Japan has made the difficult decision to shut down all schools for a full month in the hopes that it can curb the spread of the virus. This makes Japan the second country to take the drastic step of halting schools, with China being the first to issue a lockdown as the virus ravaged the country over the past two months.
As the New York Times reports, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the announcement of the school shutdowns at a meeting of a task force assembled to manage the coronavirus crisis. Thus far, nearly 200 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been discovered in Japan, and four people are said to have died as a result of their infections.
Japan was thrust into the spotlight of the coronavirus fight after a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan, became a nightmare scenario, with hundreds of vacationers coming down with the infection over just days. Managing the spread of the disease and ensuring that the cruise ship remained on lockdown as health officials dealt with the bizarre scenario put Japan on edge, and it’s clear from this school shutdown that the country wants to put a lid on the outbreak before it can cause serious damage.
The announcement reportedly included elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. However, the mandate did not appear to include universities, so it’ll be interesting to see how those are handled. The most likely scenario is that individual schools will issue their own lockdowns or manage reports of infections among their student base on a case-by-case basis.
This outbreak has the world pretty nervous, and watching how things play out in Japan could show us a preview of how other countries will handle the spread of the virus. The United States has no current plans for a lockdown or widespread closure of schools or other public institutions, but as we’ve seen in other areas, that could change rapidly.
The CDC has warned US citizens to expect significant disruptions in their daily lives. Preparing for the worst is always a good idea, but we’ll all be keeping our fingers crossed that things don’t get that bad.