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Japan's public, private sectors stepping up efforts to curb new coronavirus from China

An infrared thermal camera and its connected monitor are seen in use as part of quarantine examinations on arrivals from a flight that departed from Wuhan, at Narita Airport, Narita, Chiba Prefecture, on Jan. 23, 2019. (Mainichi/Daiki Takikawa)

Japan is stepping up efforts to curb a new, deadly coronavirus from the Chinese city of Wuhan following the second case detected in the country, as infections and fatalities continue to rise overseas.

Hotels across Japan are cautioning their guests to be vigilant, while local authorities have begun looking at canceling scheduled international exchange events with Chinese students. Consumer-oriented businesses are also stepping up their measures to reduce the potential spread of infections.

Sapporo, the capital of Japan's northernmost prefecture Hokkaido, is gearing up for the opening of its popular annual Sapporo Snow Festival on Jan. 31. With large numbers of tourists expected, written alerts have already been distributed to the city's various accommodation facilities and other establishments.

In the alerts, hospitality workers are advised to contact public health centers if they are approached for medical consultation by customers who have traveled to Wuhan before, and who have a fever of 37.5 degrees Celsius or higher and symptoms of respiratory illness.

Tokyo's Imperial Hotel is confirming the transit points used by its customers when they check in. It is also looking into distributing advisories in Japanese, English and Chinese in each of its rooms, which will encourage guests to contact hotel staff if they feel unwell.

In western Japan, the Dotonbori Store Association for the popular Osaka shopping district of the same name, which is usually bustling with inbound tourists, has distributed cautionary notices in Japanese, English and Chinese to its approximately 140 member establishments.

Elsewhere in the area, souvenir shop "Naniwa Meibutsu Ichibiri-an Dotonbori" has from this week instructed all staff to always wear face masks and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. The store's manager said, "We want to smile and connect with customers, but we are being vigilant to ensure our employees do not catch the virus from shoppers and then infect other customers."

Some local authorities are also making changes to planned events, or are looking to cancel them. In Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, two public elementary and junior high schools have cultural exchange events with students from China scheduled for early February, but both schools have begun considering calling them off.

In the city of Yonago in Tottori Prefecture, western Japan, it was announced on Jan. 23 that a spring vacation trip by a group of high school students to Baoding in China's Hebei province, which has a friendship agreement with Yonago, would be delayed beyond the summer. Although there are as yet no confirmed cases of the virus in Baoding, local authorities in the Chinese city suggested the postponement.

Narita Airport, located in the city of the same name in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, welcomed two flights on Jan. 23 that had departed from Wuhan ahead of travel restrictions enforced on the city by the Chinese government.

One of the flights, operated by All Nippon Airways Co., was carrying 169 passengers. An onboard announcement advised them, "If you have symptoms such as a cough or fever, please report to a quarantine officer." Masks were given to people who wanted them, too. Upon arrival, travelers went through a quarantine inspection.

Quarantine officials checked passengers for fevers using monitors connected to infrared thermal cameras that come up with a red display when a passenger's skin-surface temperature exceeds 35.9 C.

(Japanese original by Shimpei Torii, Mito Bureau, Tatsuki Noda, Osaka City News Department, and Tadakazu Nakamura, Narita Bureau)

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