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Easy-to-build partitions hoped to provide privacy, safety at vaccination sites in Japan

Stalls made from paper pipes and antiviral, fire-resistant material are seen at a group vaccination trial venue in Komatsu, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Mainichi/Chinatsu Ide)

KOMATSU, Ishikawa -- Partitions made with cardboard pipes and antiviral sheets which can be built in minutes are hoped to play an important role at group vaccination sites the local government in this central Japan city is preparing ahead of the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

    A trial to build a vaccination venue using the partitions was held on Feb. 2 at the gymnasium of a closed-down elementary school in the Ishikawa Prefecture city of Komatsu. The partitions are designed by the Tokyo-based nonprofit Voluntary Architects' Network (VAN), headed by renowned architect Shigeru Ban. They represent the first such effort in the country to provide privacy and safety when conducting pre-vaccination health checkups and administering vaccines.

    Architect Shigeru Ban, far left, representative director of nonprofit Voluntary Architects' Network, is seen during a venue-building trial for group vaccinations in Komatsu, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Mainichi/Chinatsu Ide)

    The Feb. 2 trial was the first venue-building test in Ishikawa Prefecture in anticipation of group vaccinations. Authorities set up the partitions and checked the flow of people when they were vaccinated.

    The partitions are made by piecing eight 2-meter-long cardboard pipes together and draping special cloths over the structure. One unit forms a cubic stall measuring 2 meters in width, length and height. The pipes can be connected to each other and expanded to create grids of structures. According to VAN, each stall can be built in under five minutes. Similar types of partitions were used at evacuation shelters during natural disasters including the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes.

    The sheets used in the stalls were invented by fabric manufacturer Komatsu Matere Co. based in the prefectural city of Nomi. The material is antiviral and fire-resistant and has noise-dampening effects to protect privacy. According to the company, viruses that come into contact with the surface of the cloth will be almost completely inactivated within two hours.

    The Komatsu Municipal Government plans to use the partitions at three locations earmarked as group vaccination venues, including the indoor arena Komatsu Dome, and will conduct simulations involving medical professionals from March onward.

    VAN's representative Ban, who participated in the Feb. 2 trial, said, "There are some things we can't be sure of, such as best suited facilities and positioning, unless we actually carry out test runs. I hope this will serve as reference for other municipalities."

    Komatsu Mayor Shinji Wada commented, "We want to increase the immunization rate to the greatest degree possible. We're hoping to vaccinate 700 people per day at each location."

    The municipal government, VAN and Komatsu Matere agreed in an accord in July 2020 to provide the partition system for evacuation shelters in the event of a major disaster.

    (Japanese original by Chinatsu Ide, Hokuriku General Bureau)

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