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Tokyo immigration bureau reports 1st coronavirus infection of foreigner in detention

The Tokyo Regional Immigration Services Bureau building in the capital's Minato Ward is seen in this Dec. 28, 2019 file photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- A foreign national in detention at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Services Bureau in the capital's Minato Ward has tested positive for the new coronavirus, the bureau announced on Aug. 7.

    The case is the first known infection of a detainee at any of the country's immigration offices. The Tokyo bureau currently has some 200 foreign nationals in detention -- including refugee status applicants -- who have lost their visa status to stay in Japan.

    According to the bureau, the infected individual is a man in his 50s who has been in detention since June 27, 2019. For privacy reasons, his nationality was not disclosed. On Aug. 5, he complained of a headache and chills, and a body temperature check revealed a fever of 39 degrees Celsius. On the same day, he took a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at an external medical facility, which reportedly came back positive two days later.

    The man returned from hospital on Aug. 5, and as of Aug. 7, he has been in solitary detention. There were around 20 foreign nationals who lived in the same section as him. The bureau said it is "taking measures to prevent the spread of infection based on advice from experts including doctors."

    The infection route is under investigation, but so far four bureau workers have tested positive for the virus, including the two in their 20s whose positive test results were announced on Aug. 6. On the possibility that the detainee was infected by one of the bureau's employees, it said, "The four people confirmed as infected do not work in sections which have direct contact with foreign nationals. Furthermore, there is no evidence of ill health among employees who have had direct contact with the infected detainee."

    In April, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations issued a statement under its president's name calling for the quick release of detainees who can be allowed out as an infection prevention measure, noting that the Tokyo immigration detention center subjects detainees to the "three Cs" of confined spaces, crowded places and close contact that raise transmission risks.

    On the morning of Aug. 7, the bureau told detainees of the possible COVID-19 case among foreign nationals at the detention center. One female Asian detainee told the Mainichi Shimbun, "I'm not sure if this facility is being disinfected enough, and I'm afraid that I might get infected, too. Our time out of living quarters and the visiting hours have been curtailed, and I'm so anxious."

    (Japanese original by Jun Ida, Integrated Digital News Center, Evening Edition Group)

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