About 18 percent of more than 1,000 universities and other higher education institutions in Japan continued to reduce their in-person teaching to less than half of their total as of October due to the coronavirus pandemic, the education ministry said Wednesday.

Of those relying heavily on remote classes, many are based in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures, where record numbers of infections have been reported in recent weeks.

A western Japan university resumes in-person classes on Sept. 24, 2020, after months of online classes amid concerns over the novel coronavirus. (Kyodo)

In an initial survey conducted by the ministry from late August through early September on 1,060 universities, junior colleges and other institutions, 377 said face-to-face teaching accounted for less than half of their entire classes.

According to the ministry, of the 377, 187 said in a follow-up survey that in-person lectures still have not reached half of their total as of Oct. 20.

For many of the 187, it said online teaching constituted about a third of all courses.

The University of Tokyo, which has been holding almost all its classes remotely, said it will provide face-to-face classes if deemed more effective than online ones.

Having shifted all classes to online, Akita International University has explained to its students that the risk of the virus spreading to others is "extremely high" given that its campus is an environment for both learning and living.

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