Abe Eyes Aid Program for Parents Taking Leave over Virus

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Tokyo, Feb. 29 (Jiji Press)--The Japanese government plans to set up a financial aid program for parents who would see their incomes fall after taking leave to care for their children following school suspensions sought by the government in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday.

A second batch of emergency steps to fight the COVID-19 virus will be drawn up in 10 days or so, Abe also said at a rare weekend news conference, calling on both ruling and opposition parties to cooperate for preparing a necessary legal framework. The aid program will cover both regular and nonregular workers, according to the prime minister.

"The next one to two weeks are crucial as to whether the virus will spread rapidly or be brought under control," Abe said, while noting that the outbreak in Japan is not as serious as in South Korea or Italy. "We should take all possible steps," Abe said, reiterating his calls for large-scale events to be canceled voluntarily.

"A mass infection among children should never happen," Abe said, seeking understanding from the public for his government's request for schools to be suspended.

The government recently requested all elementary, junior high and high schools, and special-needs schools in the country to close from next Monday until the start of the regular spring break, as part of measures to reduce the risk of infection.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

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