Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday requested the entire nation's school system close next week in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
(SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER, SHINZO ABE, SAYING: "I request all elementary, middle and high schools, and special needs schools, be temporarily closed from March 2 until spring vacation." The Japanese school year ends in March, and resumes in April after a break.
It's a dramatic escalation in Japan's fight against the illness, following criticism over the government's initial response.
The number of cases in Japan rose on Thursday to more than 200, up from the official tally of 186 late on Wednesday.
On the main northern island of Hokkaido, 15 new cases, including two children under the age of 10, were confirmed.
The Hokkaido board of education had already planned to close all public elementary and junior high schools starting Thursday.
The city of Osaka said it would close all public kindergartens, elementary and junior high schools for two weeks starting Saturday to prevent infection.
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