Written with extracts from the AP via The Mainichi
March 3rd 2020
TOKYO – Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a plan last Thursday to close schools across Japan from Monday until the end of the month. He said the coming period is critical in determining whether Japan can take control of the outbreak.
Nearly 1,000 people, including 706 on a quarantined cruise ship, have been infected in the country and 12 have died.
The school closures come near the end of Japan’s academic year, leaving little or no time for final exams or graduation ceremonies for the country’s 12.7 million students.
In a country where nannies and babysitters are uncommon and mothers are still expected to be responsible for child rearing, the measure is forcing many employed mothers to limit their working hours. The situation is even harder for single parents and those with children who have disabilities.
Mika Nakajima, a museum employee and single mother with a 15-year-old autistic son who is sensitive to noise and people around him, said she has already used up her paid vacation days to take care of her aging parents and her son late last year, and is on the verge of losing her job.
At age 47, Nakajima says she has no hope of finding another full-time position if she’s fired.
“So I’m desperate, I really cannot lose this job,” she said.
“It’s a difficult time for families with ordinary children, but it’s much harder for those who have children with disabilities or who need attention and care,” Nakajima said. “Some other forms of support are needed.”