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Tokyo supermarket workers ensure residents' safety with fast-moving, distanced service

Mare Yasukawa is seen behind a plastic screen at the register of a supermarket in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, on April 24, 2020. (Mainichi/Takehiko Onishi)

TOKYO -- With the state of emergency declared in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, supermarkets are fulfilling their "calling" to remain open for business and enable people to keep going during the crisis.

At many shops now, customers steadily line up at the registers with their shopping baskets while maintaining space between each other. Shop staff behind the counters are cordoned off from direct contact with shoppers by plastic screens, and they quickly handle people's transactions.

Mare Yasukawa, 26, a supermarket employee in the capital's Nerima Ward, works in the office and stacks vegetable shelves, and even spends up to seven hours at the register on busy days.

Customer numbers have continued to stay about 30% higher than they were before infections became more widespread, and employees are coming into contact with many unknown customers. Yasukawa admitted to being concerned, saying, "It wouldn't be surprising if I got infected sometime."

Long-life vegetables are flying off the shelves. Yasukawa said, "Maybe our customers are worried they don't have enough ingredients at home." She says there are times she feels tired from being vigilant all day. "Someone has to do this, and I don't want people to worry about what they're going to eat," she said.

While wearing gloves, she quickly and efficiently works the register. She added, "Our customers are risking their lives to come here, so we can't waste time." The mark of a professional using her awareness on the job to reduce customers' time in store.

(Japanese original by Takehiko Onishi, Photo Group)

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