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Dining styles vulnerable to COVID-19 group infections released by Japan institute

This electron microscope photo provided by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases shows the novel coronavirus isolated at the institute.

TOKYO -- In a bid to highlight the importance of taking coronavirus prevention measures, Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) on Oct. 13 released a number of case examples where people were possibly hit by group infections at ordinary eateries.

    The examples include cases where diners got the virus when they were conversing without wearing masks near an individual who had developed coronavirus symptoms, and where eatery workers got infected when they served such an individual. Meanwhile, the institute also presented an example of a facility for older people managing to prevent a cluster infection by spacing out their seating when they had meals.

    The case examples were introduced at a meeting of an advisory board to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare held on Oct. 13. The board, presided over by NIID head Takaji Wakita, has been examining countermeasures against the coronavirus. The case examples involved dining at eateries mainly serving meals rather than alcoholic beverages, such as restaurants, cafes, and diners serving set meals at reasonable prices, among other establishments that accept customers below 20 years old.

    In one of the cases, a group of three customers had conversations at a restaurant for several hours without wearing masks, and two of them ended up being infected by the remaining one who had already developed coronavirus symptoms. The three were sitting face-to-face about 1 meter apart across the table.

    In another example, customers who were sitting close to an individual with COVID-19 symptoms on a counter of an eatery, as well as an employee who served meals to them, were infected. None of them was wearing masks. The customers were sitting close to each other, to the point of their arms touching those of others sitting next to them, and the establishment exuded the atmosphere where people could enjoy casual conversations with strangers.

    At another eatery, a woman with coronavirus symptoms dined with her two children and a nephew. Of them, her child who was sitting next to her and the nephew sitting right across from her contracted the virus. The nephew and the woman were using the same spoon.

    The NIID also shared a report by a municipality that many of the group infection cases had broken out at eateries frequented by tourists, and that there were no examples of infections among customers sitting at different tables from those with COVID-19 symptoms. In yet another case, several groups of customers were infected with the virus after being attended to by a staffer who had coronavirus symptoms.

    Meanwhile, at a facility for the elderly where a user developed coronavirus symptoms, a group infection was apparently averted because each user was sitting at a distance of about 1.8 meters diagonal from other individuals when they shared the table during dining.

    Based on these reports, the NIID cited as points to be careful when dining with others: to sit as far as possible from each other; to wear masks except for when eating; and to not share chopsticks, spoons and other utensils with others.

    (Japanese original by Takuya Murata, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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