Photo/Illutration Parents collecting their children at an elementary school in Nakafurano, Hokkaido, where two pupils were found infected with the new coronavirus. Photo was taken Feb. 21. (Sen Inoue)

All 1,600 or so publicly run elementary and junior high schools in Hokkaido may well suspend classes from Feb. 27 due to the spread of the new coronavirus.

Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki said at a Feb. 26 news conference that one week may be an appropriate period to close the schools.

The policy was explained by the Hokkaido prefectural board of education on Feb. 26 at the Hokkaido prefectural assembly. It was conveyed the same day to educational boards of cities, towns and villages across the northernmost main island.

As of Feb. 25, Hokkaido had 35 infected cases. They include two elementary school children in Nakafurano town, a fiftysomething teacher at a junior high school and a woman who helped prepare meals at an elementary school in Ebetsu city.

The policy was decided after Suzuki told a task force meeting on Feb. 25 that it may be necessary to take such action.

In Tokyo, the metropolitan government revealed a different approach to the problem on Feb. 26 with plans to move up the spring vacation, downsize graduation ceremonies and introduce flexible commuting hours at about 250 schools, such as metropolitan high schools and special-needs schools.

The plans were presented to a task force meeting held in the morning of Feb. 26.

The Tokyo government intends to move up the spring break for metropolitan schools. Under the policy, schools will allow students to study at home after the year-end exams.

Graduation ceremonies can be downsized with fewer attendees and shorter proceedings.

Efforts will also be made to introduce flexible commuting hours by postponing the starting time of schools.