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Japan's Osaka city to offer free school lunches to aid parents amid COVID-19 spread

(Xinhua)    10:05, March 19, 2020

TOKYO, March 18 (Xinhua) -- The government of Japan's Osaka city on Wednesday decided to offer free school lunches to all public elementary and junior high school students in the city from April in a bid to help ease the financial burden on parents and guardians amid the continued spread of the COVID-19.

"It is obvious that the economy is being hit hard. We want to protect working people and their children from the financial burden by offering free meals from the next fiscal year starting April 1," said Mayor Ichiro Matsui of the plan, the first of its kind by a major city in Japan.

The free school lunches will be available to 165,000 elementary and junior high school students in the region and will draw on around 7.7 billion yen (71.46 million U.S. dollars) annually of the city's reserve funds.

The program is expected to save parents and guardians of the students receiving free lunches up to 60,000 yen (556 U.S. dollars) per child each year, with the program likely to be extended by the city beyond the next fiscal year.

Nurseries, elementary and junior high schools run by the city were closed from Feb. 29 to March 24 in a bid to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 in line with the education ministry's request for schools nationwide to be temporarily closed until the spring break.

Of the 876 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan as of 6:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday, the majority are in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, which has confirmed 154 cases and previously declared a state of emergency over the situation, which may soon be lifted.

After Aichi Prefecture, with 125 confirmed cases, Osaka registered 112 cases, according to health ministry and local officials.

Japan's capital city of Tokyo, meanwhile, has confirmed 102 cases, followed by Hyogo with 86 cases. Kanagawa Prefecture, according to the latest statistics from the health ministry and local authorities, has confirmed 60 COVID-19 infections.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: He Zhuoyan, Liang Jun)

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