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Editorial: Japan's college entry exam candidates deserve consideration amid omicron spread

The Japanese government's lack of coordination in its coronavirus prevention measures has been exposed again. This time, turmoil has spread among people taking school admissions exams.

    In just three days, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has switched its policy on whether to allow people who have had close contact with coronavirus omicron variant carriers to take university admissions tests.

    We have no choice but to say that the government's internal consultations ahead of events were insufficient.

    Initially, it didn't allow such individuals to sit exams even if they were symptomless, and universities were notified to take responses including offering catch-up exams. This was reportedly in line with government policy that seeks for people who have had close contact with infected individuals to quarantine at accommodation facilities for 14 days.

    But these were overly rigid measures, and it was not a decision that empathized with candidates for university admissions tests. A flurry of criticism emerged on Twitter and other platforms, and the government was driven into scrapping the approach.

    Many test-takers tend to avoid makeup exams. The questions differ from those on the initial test, which means fears that taking them will put the individual at a disadvantage cannot be assuaged. The makeup test for the standardized university entrance exams is held two weeks after the initial edition, which also presents issues because it leaves less time for candidates to prepare for universities' specific exams.

    Under the new measures, taking the tests in a separate room will be allowed. Conditions to do so are that the individuals test negative on a PCR test, are symptomless on the day of the test, and don't use public transportation.

    But there are likely to be cases where other exam-takers and their guardians are concerned about possible infection. Thorough coronavirus prevention measures cannot be forgotten.

    Admissions tests for junior high and high schools are also approaching. We want local governments and schools to look to the case of universities and take an appropriate response.

    The government's coronavirus response was also in confusion in November.

    The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism requested airlines cease accepting new reservations from Japanese nationals booking flights back to Japan, but it retracted the policy in just three days. As with the admissions tests case, the lack of coordination within the government led to criticism of its approach spreading online, and an uncommon situation emerged in which Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ordered a review of the policy.

    As it is, everyone is alert to the spread of the omicron variant. The government's internal disorder could lead to further anxiety in society.

    During the coronavirus crisis, university admissions candidates have been forced to take on a heavy burden. They have prepared while school lessons have been curtailed and brought primarily online.

    Admissions tests are an important opportunity affecting the path of one's life. Efforts to ensure an environment in which all examinees can demonstrate their true ability are indispensable.

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