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Tokyo gov't to install body temp scanners at high schools, but cash reserves dwindle

In this unrelated photo, a university student at Momoyama Gakuin University is seen entering the educational institution and having her temperature checked by thermography equipment, in Izumi, Osaka Prefecture, on May 18, 2020. (Mainichi/Kenji Konoha)

TOKYO -- As part of measures to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus, high schools and other educational institutions run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will be provided with thermography technology to check students and others for fevers, according to a May 19 announcement.

The metropolitan government also said it would provide some financial aid to all municipal and private schools in the capital, in what it says is an uncommon initiative even nationally.

On the same day, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said that for the period after the state of emergency declaration is lifted, the metropolitan government is considering reopening schools to coincide with the first step in its plan to progressively ease business closure and stay-at-home requests.

According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education, one thermography set each will be delivered to schools. To prevent droplet transmissions, acrylic plates will be put up at teacher's desks and elsewhere, and face shields also supplied. The metro government allocated 4.2 billion yen for the scheme in its fiscal 2020 general account supplementary budget, announced on the same day. A separate 50 million yen has also been included in the budget to help shoulder some of the expenses metropolitan schools have incurred from the cancellation or postponement of planned events and trips between February and June this year.

On May 15 the metropolitan government outlined its "road map" to ease business closure requests in stages, with the first step being to allow museums and other facilities to open with controlled admissions. On May 19, Gov. Koike said, "(The reopening of) metropolitan schools is step one. Decisions over elementary and junior high schools (run by municipal authorities) will be made based on their area's circumstances."

The metropolitan board of education and others have said that if certain criteria used to decide whether to ease business closure requests, such as if the number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases per day falls below 20 (based on a weekly average), are met, then schools will reopen with different classes going in at different times.

The general account supplementary budget announced on May 19 by the metropolitan government totals 583.2 billion yen. Its budgets in fiscal 2019 and 2020 to combat the novel coronavirus have topped the 1 trillion yen mark to reach 1.082 trillion in total. The metropolitan government's public finance adjustment reserve funds, effectively its savings, have been reduced by 883.6 billion yen, with only 49.3 billion left. It's the first time for its balance to fall below 100 billion yen since it did under the Shintaro Ishihara administration in fiscal 2003.

Additional costs are also expected to emerge as a result of the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, and there are reports of concerns internally about how public finances can be managed at the metropolitan government.

But on May 19, the governors of Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures met via videoconference and agreed that business closure and stay at home requests under the state of emergency should be lifted simultaneously across those four prefectures.

(Japanese original by Mei Nammo, Toshiko Koseki and Tomoko Igarashi, City News Department)

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