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Japan COVID-19 control office staff worked average of 122 hours overtime in Jan.

The Nagatacho district of Tokyo, where the National Diet building is located, is captured in this file photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Fujii)

TOKYO -- Staff members of the Cabinet Secretariat's Office for Novel Coronavirus Disease Control logged an average of 122 hours of overtime work in January, when a second state of emergency was declared over the pandemic, far above the 80-hour threshold deemed to increase the risk of death from overwork, the government disclosed on March 5.

    The longest amount of overtime logged by one worker the same month was approximately 378 hours.

    The figures were disclosed in a written reply, approved by the Cabinet, to parliamentary questions submitted by independent House of Councillors lawmaker Kiyoshi Adachi. Overtime logged by staff members in the office had averaged about 69 hours (with a maximum of approximately 197 hours) in November 2020, and about 77 hours (with a maximum of about 320 hours) in December 2020.

    The written reply said that none of the workers in the Office for Novel Coronavirus Disease Control were teleworking, though the Japanese government has urged the public to do so in response to the spread of coronavirus infections. It also said the nature of the work being carried out by the office required an urgent response, and that efforts to shift toward teleworking were not progressing.

    Furthermore, the reply stated that secretaries to economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is in charge of measures for the coronavirus pandemic, and staffers in the Office for Novel Coronavirus Disease Control "have been shouldering significant burdens." It added that the government is "attempting to enhance its system by securing the necessary manpower, and has made sure that workers secure rest as much as possible."

    (Japanese original by Hironori Takechi, Political News Department)

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