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Osaka health center workers put in 100 hours of overtime in April dealing with outbreak

Osaka City Hall is seen in this file photo taken on March 18, 2019. (Mainichi/Yukiko Hayashi)

OSAKA -- Several workers at the Osaka city public health center who were tasked with responding to the novel coronavirus outbreak in the city worked over 100 hours of overtime in the month of April -- passing the threshold for increased risk of death by overwork, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

The health center checked overtime hours of 22 employees at its infectious disease control division tasked to respond to the outbreak and found out that seven of them had worked more than 100 hours of overtime in April. The longest was 124 hours. The overall average overtime was 73 hours, an increase of 13 hours from the month of March and more than double from the 30 hours reported in April 2019 -- nearing the death by overwork "red line" which is set at 80 hours of overtime over a period of one month.

The number of coronavirus cases in Osaka Prefecture was 244 at the end of March, but it spiked to 1,625 by the end of April. Roughly 40% of theses cases were concentrated in the prefectural capital of Osaka, and health center workers faced increased workloads as the list of their tasks rapidly grew, such as tracking infection routes and finding hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, among other duties.

The Osaka Municipal Government in mid-May set up a specialized group within the health center's infectious disease control division while boosting the number of group members to 51. A representative from the center told the Mainichi Shimbun, "We want to reduce the staff's workload while preparing for a second wave (of infections)."

(Japanese original by Kensuke Yaoi, Osaka City News Department)

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