Fighting to protect against Wuhan virus during Lunar New Year

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) — Amid the outbreak of pneumonia caused by a new strain of coronavirus, the number of people visiting Japan is expected to increase during the Lunar New Year holiday period that began Friday in China.

In domestic airports and tourist sites, relevant officials are increasing the level of vigilance in order to prevent the infection from spreading.

At Narita Airport, two planes arrived Thursday afternoon directly from Wuhan, China, where many of the pneumonia cases have been reported.

Almost all of the total of about 300 passengers wore masks.

A couple in their 30s living in the suburbs of Wuhan said they plan to travel around Tokyo and Hokkaido for a week during the Lunar New Year holiday. “I’m looking forward to watching snow in Sapporo,” the 30-year-old wife said.

The Narita Airport quarantine office raised the number of officers by one for each quarantine booth that handles passengers arriving from Wuhan. They carefully checked the passengers such as their body temperature using thermography.

At sightseeing areas where many visitors are expected during the Lunar New Year period, infection prevention measures are being strengthened. In Nagasaki, the Nagasaki Lantern Festival began on Friday to celebrate the Lunar New Year until Feb. 9.

During the span of the festival, eight large cruise ships will arrive at the Port of Nagasaki from China and a total of about 32,000 people will visit the city.

The Nagasaki municipal government has prepared rubbing alcohol dispensers at five locations in the city, including a tourist information center, and asks visitors to be mindful of good manners when sneezing or coughing, such as covering their nose and mouth.

The Oita municipal government, on the other hand, decided to postpone an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the friendship city agreement with Wuhan that was scheduled for Feb. 8.

They had initially planned to invite six people including a chef from Wuhan to promote exchanges through food, but they gave up on the idea due to the outbreak of the viral infection. They have not yet decided when to hold the event.
Masks Sold Out

With the spread of the new coronavirus, masks have been selling well in Japan. According to a major daily goods manufacturer, Unicharm Corp., orders for masks have rapidly risen since Jan. 16 when the first case of the infection was announced in Japan.

The orders were 10 times higher than usual only on Jan. 16 and 17, and about three times higher on Thursday, according to the company.

At a drug store at Narita Airport, many masks were sold out. “In China, I heard that masks are in short supply. So I think masks are a popular souvenir,” an official of a company operating the drug store said.