Schools across Japan are to close for nearly a month in a bid to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he has asked schools to remain closed from this weekend until spring holidays begin in late March.

The measure comes amid growing concern about the rise in the number of untraceable cases in northern Japan and elsewhere.

Japan now has more than 890 cases, including 705 from a quarantined cruise ship.

PM Shinzo Abe has asked schools to remain closed for the rest of the term. Credit: Yoshihide Sugawara/Kyodo News via AP

Officials in Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido said they were closing all 1,600 elementary and middle schools in the island prefecture, with the governor saying the coming one to two weeks are crucial in fighting the strain of coronavirus – also known as Covid-19.

Several schools have closed in the UK while others - including the one attended by Prince George and Princess Charlotte - have sent pupils home amid fears they may have been exposed to coronavirus during half-term trips to northern Italy.

But Public Health England (PHE) said that its general advice is not to close schools - a message echoed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.