Photo/Illutration An email from a certified nursery school in Tokyo notifies parents of children attending the school of its temporary closure due to surging COVID-19 cases. (Natsumi Nakai)

The health ministry announced that a record 327 nursery schools had temporally closed in Tokyo, Hokkaido and 25 prefectures as of Jan. 20 due to surging COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant.

The figure released Jan. 24 was nearly quadruple that of Jan. 13 when 86 nursery schools were closed in Tokyo, Hokkaido and 12 prefectures.

It also far exceeded the 185 in Tokyo, Hokkaido and 13 prefectures as of Sept. 2, 2021, which at the time ranked as the highest number since the pandemic flared in Japan.

The surge in nursery school closures is expected to affect many working parents with young children at home and workplaces.

The 327 nursery schools are located in the northernmost main island of Hokkaido as well as the prefectures of Aomori, Akita, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Nagano, Aichi, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Okayama, Yamaguchi, Kagawa, Ehime, Kochi, Fukuoka, Saga, Oita, Kagoshima and Okinawa.

The ministry said 23,896 nursery schools were operating across the country as of last April.