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After-school facilities in Japan make emergency call for supplies to fight coronavirus

Children draw pictures at a temporary after-school child care service facility in Tokyo's Adachi Ward on March 3, 2020. (Mainichi/Shinnosuke Kyan)

TOKYO -- Japan's after-school association issued an emergency statement on March 14, demanding measures including that local and national governments provide items to prevent new coronavirus infections among children at after-school day cares.

The Japanese Research Association of After School Care, which consists of child welfare researchers and after-school day care workers, said in its statement that children have close contact with each other at such facilities, thereby running a higher risk of infection than when at school.

According to the association many after-school day cares now accept children from the mornings due to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's sudden request for schools to temporarily close. But a lack of disinfectants and other supplies has meant facilities cannot take proper measures to prevent infections. They also face labor shortages, and staff are working excessively long hours.

Furthermore, even with the support of elementary school employees, after-school day cares are reportedly failing to work together effectively, among other issues.

In the statement, the association demanded local and national governments take measures such as distributing masks, disinfectants and other items; promoting effective use of school buildings and public facilities; improving the cooperative system with school staff; and reviewing the government's subsidies to reflect spending increases including labor costs for replacement workers.

After-school day cares act as an intermediate space between home and school for children from dual income or single parent households. The national government subsidizes local authorities, government-commissioned bodies and others to provide places where children can play and eat snacks after school. Privately-run after-school facilities, which do not receive subsidies from the government, are also on the rise.

(Japanese original by Kaori Owada, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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