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Concerns growing in Japan over coronavirus-linked bullying

  • February 13, 2020
  • , Jiji Press , 12:54 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Feb. 13 (Jiji Press)–With concerns growing in Japan over prejudice and discrimination against people infected with the new coronavirus, some local governments as well as the education ministry are taking steps to prevent the occurrence of bullying.

Experts warn that the ongoing coronavirus outbreak could lead to bullying, as there are many uncertainties regarding the virus.

The education board of Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, where many people returning from Wuhan, the epicenter of viral infections in China, had been quarantined in a hotel, has notified all public schools within the prefecture twice to “take utmost care” to prevent prejudice and discrimination against family members of hotel and hospital staff involved in quarantine work.

The board has also distributed leaflets calling on school children and students to “act with kindness.”

So far, no cases of bullying have been reported, board officials said.

The Chiba education board took the measures having in mind cases of bullying at schools against children who evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 plant, officials said.

“There are similarities (between the Fukushima evacuee case and the coronavirus situation), such as excessive and growing anxiety,” an official noted. “The current situation is prone to bullying.”

The education ministry has posted a message from education minister Koichi Hagiuda on its website saying that “bullying and prejudice must not be tolerated.”

The ministry has issued a notice to schools to exercise flexibility with regard to the admission of schoolchildren and students by respecting their human rights.

Concerns over discrimination have also been heard from passengers aboard a cruise ship currently quarantined off Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo.

“I want to make sure I get off the ship with a guarantee that I am not infected (with the coronavirus),” said Yasuhito Hirasawa, 64, one of the passengers.

“Otherwise, even after life returns to normal, I’d hesitate to pick up my grandchild from nursery school,” he said.

Asao Naito, an associate professor of sociology at Meiji University and an expert in bullying issues, said that, in the history of mankind, infectious diseases have often been used as a reason to attack other human beings.

“It is necessary to strictly ban discrimination,” particularly at schools, Naito said, noting that group influence tends to be strong among school-age children and students.

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