Some elementary and junior high schools in Japan resumed classes on Monday, about two weeks after shutting to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
The education ministry asked education boards across the country on Feb. 28 to close their schools as part of efforts to contain the outbreak, but the request was not mandatory and it was left to local authorities to decide how long the suspension should last.
Deeming infections of the pneumonia-causing virus have not spread within their communities, the education boards of Toyama, Shizuoka, Hamamatsu and Naha cities as well as Okinawa Prefecture have decided to end the closures at the schools they run.
School closures have significantly affected the lives of children and their parents.
"I want to enjoy the remainder of my school life until the graduation ceremony in two days' time," said Junon Matsushita, 12, who arrived at Aoi Elementary School in Shizuoka in the morning along with many others who were wearing masks.
The boy said he had spent the past two weeks studying and playing with his 18-year-old brother, whose high school was similarly closed.
The elementary school has decided to keep pupils' desks apart and open windows for ventilation to prevent potential infections following the restart of classes. Teachers also checked written reports submitted on the children's body temperatures and health conditions in recent weeks.
According to an earlier Kyodo News survey, 18 education boards had been planning to reopen schools on Monday. Thirteen of them, however, have now decided to extend their closures until the spring break, which normally ends in early April.
The 13 are the education boards of the cities of Sapporo, Saitama, Yokohama, Osaka, Sakai, Kobe, Saga and Miyazaki, and the prefectures of Kyoto, Hyogo, Kumamoto, Saga and Kagoshima.
Many other education boards in the country announced from the start that they would keep their schools shut until the spring break.
Shimane Prefecture and the city of Matsue, meanwhile, have not closed their schools at all.