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1st coronavirus case on Japan island leaves residents disappointed, worried

Ryotsu Port is seen in this file photo taken in the city of Sado, Niigata Prefecture, in April 2015. (Mainichi/Maki Nakajima)

SADO, Niigata -- A resident on the Sea of Japan island of Sado was confirmed to have the novel coronavirus on July 22, marking the remote island's first infection, sparking anxiety among residents as the patient hadn't traveled off the isle in July.

    Though residents have been taking thorough prevention measures, the island in Niigata Prefecture saw many tourists during the four-day holiday that ended on July 26, and many worry that infections may spread in the future.

    When a 65-year-old woman in Tokyo asked her mother in her 90s who lives on Sado in late July if she should visit the family home during the Obon holiday season in August, she was told, "Do not come visit."

    The woman says her mother attends a day care service for the elderly twice a week, but would have to refrain from going for two weeks if she meets a person from outside the island. The woman was told by her mother that she would hate not being able to go to the day care that she enjoys, and that she didn't want to be the first person infected on the island. According to her mom, most residents are taking thorough coronavirus prevention measures and one of her acquaintances even refrained from going out for two weeks because they went to a hospital off the island.

    It takes about two hours and a half on a ferry or around an hour on a high-speed craft from Niigata to reach the island of Sado. As a prevention measure, Sado Steam Ship, the operator of the connecting services, is carrying out thermography checks on passengers. Many tourists usually visit the island in summer to camp, enjoy the beaches and to fish, but many summer festivals and other events were called off this year due to the coronavirus. Following confirmation of the first case on the island, swimming has been banned in designated beaches for the time being.

    A woman in her 60s, who runs an eatery on the island, sighed and said, "People on Sado have been working so hard because we didn't want to see any infections." She added, "It's scary because the (first) patient hadn't been off the island, and we don't know the route of infection. Many tourists came from outside of Niigata Prefecture during the four-day holiday. As a restaurant owner I feel grateful for the tourists visiting, but I'm also scared about the spread of infections. Reservations were canceled after the discovery of the first infection, so I'm worried about sales, but I don't want to see any more infections... "

    The woman is making efforts to prevent infections by frequently ventilating the eatery, disinfecting tables and setting seats apart, but she says the situation causes her a lot of concern.

    There are a mere four beds at Sado General Hospital that can be used by patients with designated infectious diseases. The Niigata Prefectural Government says it plans to treat coronavirus patients using beds for general patients if infections spread. But the eatery owner commented, "I'm worried as there are only a few hospitals. I hope the coronavirus pandemic ends soon, and that tourists will be able to visit."

    (Japanese original by Maki Nakajima, Web Operation/News Flash Group)

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