Japan schools close for a month to control spread of coronavirus

Coronavirus

Tourists wear masks as they pause for photos with the New National Stadium, a venue for the opening and closing ceremonies at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is asking all elementary, middle and high schools nationwide to close until late March to help control the spread of the new virus in the country.

The request caught many local officials by surprise. While not legally binding, it is expected to be followed.

It will affect 12.8 million students at about 34,800 schools nationwide.

The decision comes amid growing concern about the rise in the number of untraceable cases of the virus in Japan. The country now has more than 910 cases, including 705 from a quarantined cruise ship.

An eighth death from the virus was confirmed Thursday on the northern island of Hokkaido.

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