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Abe: Parents who have to stop working can benefit from subsidies: The Asahi Shimbun

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On February 29, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced emergency programs to alleviate the financial blow suffered by parents and employers following his abrupt call for the closure of national schools to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

At his first press conference on the issue, Abe acknowledged that school closings would cause huge burdens on people, but asked the public to understand by stressing the need to contain the epidemic .

The press conference followed Abe's request on February 27 to close elementary, secondary, secondary and special schools across the country from March 2.

But his appeal immediately caused unrest among parents, local authorities and businesses because the Prime Minister did not mention measures to mitigate the financial impact and other problems related to the closure of schools.

Abe defended his request, saying that I couldn't afford to waste time before making the decision.

The closure would affect 13 million schoolchildren.

Many parents would have to leave work to care for their children and experience a sharp drop in income as a result. Businesses may be forced to close certain operations with fewer employees.

More children will have to spend time in community centers and other places if their parents cannot take days off.

With regard to helping parents, Abe said "a new subsidy program will be put in place" to help them compensate for the drop in income due to staying at home for Take care of their children.

He said workers will be eligible for such subsidies regardless of their status as regular employees or non-regular employees.

Abe also said the central government would help local governments offer programs to care for children if their parents cannot be at home while the schools are closed.

In addition, the central government plans to provide subsidies to employers if they keep regular and non-regular employees on their payroll even after a decline in business performance.

Abe said the central government would compile a second package of assistance in the next 10 days or so.

But he did not explain why he asked for a general closure of the schools and to what extent this stage could contain infections.

The Prime Minister admitted at the press conference that he had not sufficiently explained how the central government was tackling the problem of coronaviruses.

He spoke about the issue at meetings of the Diet and a government task force formed to respond to it since the infection was confirmed in Japan. He met with the journalists briefly on four occasions, notably when they waited for him to comment on the death of a COVID-19 patient.

But he never spoke directly to the public before the press conference on February 29.

Despite Abes 'promise to provide financial assistance to parents, Chiba Toshihito Kumagai's mayor criticized Abes' speech as a one-sided address in which he only mentioned what he wanted say.

Prime Minister Abe, there is nothing wrong with pronouncing an address, but please give more details quickly on the guaranteed income, Kumagai said on his Twitter account after the Premiers' press conference.

Kumagai also expressed concerns about the health of children who will congregate in classrooms or community halls to spend time if their parents cannot take care of them while their schools are closed.

If children are crammed into such places in the morning, their risk of being infected with the virus will increase, he said.

An official close to the Prime Minister's Office expressed disappointment at Abas' press conference, comparing it to that organized by Hokkaido governor Naomichi Suzuki on February 28, where he issued the state report. Emergency for Hokkaido.

Suzuki, wearing a mask and showing graphics, explained why he had decided to declare a state of emergency for three weeks.

I did not feel a sense of urgency about the Premiers' press conference as much as I did about the Governor of Hokkaido, the official said.

Regarding Chinese President Xi Jinping's planned visit to Japan in April, Abe said the plan had not changed at this point.

But he did not rule out the possibility of postponing the trip, saying the two countries must achieve satisfactory results thanks to the visit of Chinese leaders.

As a state guest, Xi is expected to meet with Emperor Naruhito.

As for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which start at the end of July and the end of August respectively, the Prime Minister said that officials are preparing thoroughly for sporting events.

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