18 virus clusters at schools in Japan since June

Japan's education ministry says 18 clusters of coronavirus infections have occurred at schools since they reopened in June after a nationwide closure.

The ministry says 1,166 students from elementary to senior high schools were infected with the virus during the period through the end of August. The number of teachers and staff infected was 194. And 83 children and staff at kindergartens were also infected.

There were 68 cases where two or more people tested positive, and 18 clusters involving five or more infections were among them.

The ministry says none of them led to infections spreading to communities.

But the ministry says there have been a number of reports that students and staff at schools where infections occurred were subject to verbal abuse and discrimination.

The ministry is working to provide information on anti-virus measures to education boards across the country, and raise awareness in communities.

A ministry official, Hirayama Naoko, said she believes the number of clusters at schools is limited because school staff are working hard to prevent infections.

She noted that baseless slanders and discrimination have been reported, and called for a calm response from communities.