January 24 2022
TOKYO – A record 327 day-care centers have temporarily shut down in Japan as the coronavirus resurgence grips the country, the health ministry said Monday, causing a headache for working parents.
The number of such facilities suspending services as of last Thursday, excluding privately operated or locally licensed ones, increased fourfold in a week along with the spike in COVID-19 cases and well exceeded the previous high of 185 in September, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
Japan’s confirmed daily coronavirus cases topped 50,000 on Saturday in the wake of the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, renewing the record for a fifth straight day.
The day-care centers are mostly used by couples where both parents work, and their closure is prone to disturb their work lives.
The shutdowns have been seen in 27 of the country’s 47 prefectures, at a time when the Japanese government is set to expand its quasi-state of emergency antivirus restrictions to over 30 prefectures.
Some municipalities such as Nagoya have started to ask parents not to bring their children until the current wave of pandemic subsides.
Since the health ministry began tracking infections among children and staff at day-care facilities in March 2020, a total of 11,397 children and 7,644 facility employees tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday.
Meanwhile, 63 facilities which look after elementary school students after school hours were temporarily shut as of Thursday due to the pandemic, the health ministry said.