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Bus, taxi groups ask Tokyo gov't for masks, sanitizers, measures against harmful rumors

A taxi driver wearing a mask waits for a fare with a Tokyo 2020 logo on the door of his cab, on Feb. 18, 2020, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

TOKYO -- Amid the spike in new coronavirus cases in the capital, local bus and taxi associations demanded more supplies of face masks and sanitizers as well as measures to prevent harmful rumors from affecting the local transport industry in a Feb. 17 meeting with Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.

During the meeting at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, Tokyo Bus Association Chairman Tetsuo Yamaguchi requested priority be given to public transport in the distribution of such items. He explained, "There is a risk of infection for those aboard buses. If it (the outbreak) prolongs, our stocks of masks and sanitizers may run out." He also urged measures be taken to prevent harmful rumors from keeping visitors away from Tokyo ahead of the spring school excursion season.

"We cannot allow our customers to become infected, nor get infected by them," said Takashi Akita, chairman of the Tokyo Private Taxi Association -- with a membership of about 11,700 individual taxi drivers including one infected with the new virus. "We are worried that customers won't feel safe to use taxis if the route of infection is unknown," he added.

Tokyo Hire Taxi Association Chairman Ichiro Kawanabe explained, "So far, no significant economic damage can be seen, and workers are responding calmly." He also informed Koike that while taxi drivers are ensuring cars are ventilated after each ride, it is becoming difficult to obtain medical thermometers for the health management of employees.

Koike responded that she would like to build a framework in which drivers and customers can both be protected, and recommended workers to call a support center if they are feeling unwell or in any other cases.

In response to their demands, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government decided to distribute a total of some 150,000 face masks for the three associations.

(Japanese original by Kentaro Mori, City News Department)

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