School closure period to be cut to about 5 days

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry building

The government plans to shorten the periods of anti-pandemic school closures and class cancellations to about five days, from the current seven, in light of the characteristics of the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The education ministry will change its policy based on such characteristics of the variant as having a shorter incubation period than the original virus and other variants.

The ministry intends to revise its guidelines on how schools should respond to confirmed cases of infection, and then will notify prefectural boards of education about the modified guidelines, sources said.

Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Shinsuke Suematsu said at the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives on Tuesday: “We’ve been hearing opinions from experts on countermeasures against infectious diseases. We will present them as soon as we sort through them.”

Although the ministry has yet to clarify the standards of judgment with regard to school attendance upon resumption of school, it plans to clearly state that children and students will be allowed to attend unless they have tested positive in a PCR test, have been identified as a close contact, or have symptoms of the virus, according to the sources.

The ministry intends to encourage the early resumption of school when possible in order to limit an outbreak’s impact on education.

It will also review the hygiene management manual for schools, informing schools that they can take measures without a state of emergency being declared, though the current manual states that such measures should be taken under an emergency declaration, they said.

The current policy stipulates that schools are required to temporarily restrict practice matches with other schools and training camps for club activities when a state of emergency is declared. The ministry, however, will specify that such measures can be implemented in areas subject to priority measures to prevent the spread of the disease.