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Customers worried after major COVID-19 cluster infection hits Osaka dept. store staff

Hanshin Department Store's Umeda flagship branch is seen on Aug. 2, 2021 in Osaka's Kita Ward. (Mainichi/Aya Iguchi)
A sign at the entrance of Hanshin Department Store's Umeda flagship branch in Osaka's Kita Ward notifies customers that the food section on the first basement level and the ground floor is temporarily closed, on Aug. 2, 2021. (Mainichi/Aya Iguchi)

OSAKA -- More than 1,000 inquiries have flooded Hanshin Department Store here after a major COVID-19 cluster struck the staff of its flagship Umeda branch, mostly in the food section.

    Hankyu Hanshin Department Stores Inc. parent company H2O Retailing Corp. announced on Aug. 3 that it would keep the food section on the first basement level and the ground floor of the Umeda branch shut on Aug. 4. The section has been closed since July 31.

    Hankyu Hanshin Department Stores announced on Aug. 4 that 13 new infections have been confirmed, bringing the total to 128 employees. According to the company, 10 of the newly confirmed cases were working on the first basement floor, and the other three were on the second, third and seventh floor, respectively.

    Most of the cluster infections occurred in the food section. H2O Retailing has had some 2,000 employees, mostly in that section, take PCR tests.

    Hankyu Hanshin set up a customer inquiry desk on July 31, when the entire Umeda store was temporarily closed. According to H2O Retailing, there had been more than 1,000 phone inquiries by Aug. 3. While comments included, "I'm concerned because I always use the store," some demanded the department store take stronger measures, such as, "I want the store to be closed for longer," and, "Why are all the floors above the first floor open?"

    A company representative told the Mainichi Shimbun, "We are telling customers that there is no need to be concerned as infection prevention measures are being implemented and disinfection has been completed."

    (Japanese original by Aya Iguchi, Osaka Business News Department)

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