Fearing coronavirus, Japan closes all schools through beginning of April

By March 3, 2020

Japan (MNN) Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has closed schools in Japan through the month of March amid concerns about the upcoming Olympic Games.

The Northern Japanese island Hokkaido has also been quarantined due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and Prime Minister Abe asked citizens to stay inside during the weekend.

The move has surprised many, including working parents who now have to care for their children at home. Others questioned the effectiveness of such a move since parents will still have to go out and work after having contact with their children.

Asian Access’ Joe Handley says the decision makes some sense. “Spring break is coming up anyway, and he thought to mitigate any spread of potential spread of virus . . . it’d be wise to just suggest that the schools start a little early with the spring break.”

Japan might be taking these steps to protect the Olympic games in Tokyo this summer. Asian Access has been planning for the last two years to use the Olympics as a platform for the Gospel. Handley says, “That’s going to be a huge outreach, not just for Asian Access, but for those all of us that serve in Japan. Right now we’re waiting to find out what they’re going to do with the Olympics.”

Japan has no plans as of yet to put the games on hold and has not made any contingency plans.

The Limitations

Handley says the situation is hampering ministry efforts, especially for pastors and missionaries. “So they’re having to figure out ways to serve their kids and having to bypass what they would normally be doing on a weekly basis for ministry.” The quarantines and other precautions have also made traveling into and out of Japan difficult.

Handley says the situation has halted some Asian Access work in Japan. In addition, some financial deposits may be lost as a result.

“We’re just not able to get out and be face to face with people and do evangelism and discipleship. And in in church services, you have to be more careful.”

In addition, the economy in Japan is taking a major hit. Handley explains, “Supplies that normally would be produced or retooled in China, and then shipped all over the world. All of those chains have been disrupted.”

Pharmacy shelf in Japan empty of face masks. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Handley also mentioned that Facebook cancelled a major conference in the Silicone Valley, sending more ripple effects through the economy with the loss of fees, tourist money and related expenses.   And fear about the economy often leads to lower donations.

“On one side, we’re having to delay or cancel events [for] which we incur costs. On the other side, because of the overall impact on the economy, the donation streams are are also getting less. So you can see it’s kind of a double whammy for groups like Asian access.”

How to pray

Handley encourages Christians to pray for the people of Japan. “One of the great opportunities anytime you have a crisis is people are nervous, they’re concerned, they’re anxious, they’re actually more open to the Gospel. And so, pray that doors would open in the midst of this challenge so that faith can be shared.”

Handley encourages believers to live in the power and love of Jesus, not in fear. Many people around the world are afraid of COVID-19, but Jesus is the Lord of all things, and has risen from the dead.



Japanese school room. (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

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