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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 February 26 - March 3  > Abe should listen to experts sincerely in efforts to contain new coronavirus
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2020 February 26 - March 3 [POLITICS]

Abe should listen to experts sincerely in efforts to contain new coronavirus

March 3, 2020

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on February 27 issued a de facto order to close all schools in the country as part of efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19). In accordance with the order, most elementary, junior high, and senior high schools as well as schools for children with special needs were shut down on March 2. However, some municipalities decided not to immediately close their schools in order to avoid confusion among teachers and staff, while others delayed the start of school closure in order to make necessary preparations. This measure immediately aroused public concern and questions: will all children have safe places to stay in the daytime; will parents’ income losses when they take days off from work to take care of their children at home be compensated; and how will support for children’s mental health be provided.

In response to an upsurge in public concerns and questions, PM Abe’s explanation about the school closure lacks detail. He says little about why it is necessary to shut down all the schools in Japan and how he reached this conclusion. At a press conference held two days after the school closure order, asked by the press why he suddenly implemented such a policy, Abe said that he had to hurry to make the decision. At a House of Councilors Budget Committee meeting on March 2, Abe gave the same explanation. He also said that the decision was not based on expert advice and admitted that it was made by his own judgement.

The government’s basic policy on measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak was compiled on February 25 in line with the opinion presented by the government expert panel. The basic policy notes that schools in coronavirus-stricken areas may need to close, but says nothing about a nationwide shutdown. Some expert panel members have expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the across-the-board school closure.

What is necessary in the government efforts to combat the new coronavirus outbreak is not political judgements made in a haphazard manner. Instead, the government should make full use of the opinions and knowledge of experts as well as proposals presented by all political parties. More importantly, the government should use enough funds without delay to set up systems to provide medical care to patients, give diagnostic tests to persons who may be infected with the virus, and offer compensation to workers who had to take days off from work.
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