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98,000 school kids in Japan got COVID in Jan., topping total for previous 19 months

A school classroom is seen in this unrelated photo. (Getty Images)

TOKYO -- A total of 98,425 coronavirus cases were confirmed among children at Japan's preschools, elementary, junior high and high schools, and special needs schools in January this year, the education ministry announced on Feb. 15.

    The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has been tracking the number of infected schoolchildren each month since June 2020, after nationwide pandemic-related school closures ended. The January 2022 figure exceeded the 93,234 total cases for the 19 months up to December 2021.

    The survey results show once again the high infectivity of the omicron variant, the driving force behind Japan's sixth coronavirus infection wave.

    The infection routes for 43% of the January cases in kindergartens are unknown. The figure is 59% for primary school cases, 55% for middle school cases, 54% for high school cases and 61% for cases in special needs schools.

    The ratios increased significantly from the period between July and December 2021, during which Japan was hit by the fifth wave of infections in the summer. Sources of infection were unknown for 23% of cases in kindergartens, 25% in elementary schools, 35% in junior high schools, 45% in high schools and 32% in special needs schools. In addition to community-acquired infections, it seems that the strain on public health centers caused by the sixth wave is making it difficult for them to trace infection routes, feeding the surge.

    Of the January cases with confirmed infection routes, "family-acquired infections" continued to exceed "school-acquired infections" at preschools, elementary and junior high schools, and special needs schools. However, "school-acquired infections" topped "family-acquired infections" for high school students, 22% to 19%.

    The education ministry said, "High schools have always tended to have a high rate of in-school infections, and we do not believe that schools are a major source of viral spread."

    (Japanese original by Akira Okubo, Tokyo City News Department)

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