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Japan education minister asks children to remove masks as heatstroke risk rises

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TOKYO -- Children should be told to take off their masks on their way to and from school in summer, education minister Shinsuke Suematsu told a post-Cabinet meeting press conference on May 24, as heatstroke risks rise with the warming weather.

    "Please make the distinction between when to and when not to use masks" as a coronavirus precaution, Suematsu said, stressing as well that students don't need to wear masks during gym class, even when indoors. He added, "Not only is it important to balance between infection control and education, but heatstroke measures are a life-and-death issue."

    The education ministry sent notifications on the policy to prefectural education boards and other bodies on the same day,

    The government's recently revised basic coronavirus response policy clearly states that heatstroke measures should be prioritized in the summer, and that masks are unnecessary during P.E. classes or when people are social distancing. The education ministry had been requesting a similar response in its "hygiene management manual," which summarizes coronavirus measures at schools. Observers had pointed out cases of students being instructed to wear masks during P.E. classes.

    At the press conference, Suematsu emphasized that children should be told to remove their masks when going to and from school, but that they also need to avoid talking on the way. He added that masks are unnecessary during gym class, including at pools and in gymnasiums.

    (Japanese original by Yongho Lee, Tokyo City News Department)

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