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2020年 3月 20日

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COVID-19 Outbreak Results in Closed Schools and Cancelled Events Across Japan

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The COVID-19 virus, more commonly referred to as the coronavirus, outbreak in Japan has prompted a historic school closure and the cancellation of hundreds of events as the government tries to limit its spread.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in a historic announcement at the end of February, urged all elementary, junior high, high and special education schools in Japan to shut down during the month of March due to the fear of coronavirus spreading.

It was up to individual boards of education to decide what to do, but most have complied with the government’s recommendation. This means many graduation ceremonies have been cancelled or will happen without outside spectators.

The decision has forced parents across Japan to scramble, as they either need to take time off work or find somewhere to take their children during the month of March.

The government also urged large-scale events and gatherings to either cancel or postpone to a later date in order to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Almost all government-supported events have been cancelled in the wake of the outbreak. Many independent concerts and festivals, meanwhile, have also cancelled in the weeks since Abe asked them to reconsider.

Theme parks such as Universal Studios Japan and Tokyo Disneyland have also closed until late March and the beginning of April respectively.

The Tokyo metropolitan government recently urged citizens not to hold cherry blossom viewing parties this spring as a result of the virus as well.

Professional sports leagues have been especially hit hard by this news.

The J-League, Japan’s professional soccer league, postponed all official matches scheduled until April 3 in order to help. Nippon Professional Baseball, meanwhile, announced all preseason games would happen without any spectators present.

Much speculation has swirled around what will happen about the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Rumors have suggested that the event could be postponed or cancelled altogether, though the International Olympic Committee stressed in March that they believe the Games will happen as planned*.

Economic markets, meanwhile, have been heavily impacted by COVID-19.

As of March 12, 682 people in Japan have been infected with the coronavirus, with 17 deaths reported. These numbers don’t count 696 people who were infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was docked in Yokohama during the month of February.

Worries over the coronavirus prompted many in Japan to start hoarding various items due to worries they would run out of them in the near future. Consumers have started buying face masks, toilet paper and tissues in bulk as the number of cases of coronavirus increases.

While the supply of toilet paper and tissues is overall healthy, stores have been facing a shortage of both in recent weeks. Long lines of people have formed outside drug stores every morning as people try to get both.
                                 (468 words)
                            *as of March 12, 2020

Key Words and Expressions

  1. outbreak — a sudden start of something like a disease or a war
  2. spread — to cover a larger area
  3. postpone — to move the date or time of an event to a later date or  time
  4. as planned — to go according to plan
  5. economic markets — the place where people sell and buy products or services
  6. be infected with — to cause someone to receive harmful bacteria or virus
  7. run out of — to not have items or energy anymore
  8. consumer — a person who buys a product or a service
  9. the supply of — the available amount of something that can be bought or used
  10. shortage — a situation in which something is lacking

Reading Comprehension Test

Questions

  1. Why did the government ask schools to close in March?
    a. Because we need to limit the spread of coronavirus.
    b. Because too many students have coronavirus.
    c. Because too many parents have coronavirus.
    d. Because graduation ceremonies have gotten too expensive.
  2. Which of the following has been postponed or cancelled due to coronavirus?
    a. Nippon Professional Baseball preseason games.
    b. J-League Soccer Games.
    c. Summer Olympics.
    d. Summer Paralympics.
  3. Which of the following statements is true?
    a. People are lining up outside of drug stores early to buy baby food
     and napkins.
    b. Parents have no problem with the March school closures.
    c. The International Olympic Committee expects the Olympics to  
     happen on time.
    d. No concerts have been cancelled due to coronavirus.
  4. Why are events cancelling in March?
  5. Why are Japanese consumers hoarding certain items?
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