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Insufficient antivirus measures behind workplace clusters: Japan gov't survey

An almost deserted office in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward is seen in this unrelated file photo. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Japanese workplaces hit with COIVID-19 clusters had insufficient infection countermeasures, such as failing to install acrylic boards between desks, a survey by the health ministry has shown.

    As Japan has seen workplace cluster numbers rise, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry investigated anti-infection steps taken at businesses, based on a government-set list of measures to prevent workplace transmissions. "We ask that businesses confirm their steps to lower infection risks and strive to prevent transmissions," the ministry stated.

    The survey to identify specific insufficiencies at workplaces hit by clusters covered 18 locations including offices and factories in Wakayama and Gifu prefectures, where group infections of at least six people occurred between October 2020 and May this year. The questionnaire asked if those workplaces had taken 17 infection countermeasures, including having workers wear masks and ventilating office spaces, before the clusters occurred.

    The results showed that only one of the workplaces had abided by at least 80% of those countermeasures. The average adherence rate was 48%.

    While more than 90% of workplaces had taken steps such as measuring employees' temperatures and setting up disinfection equipment at entrances, none of the 18 locations had paper towels in their bathrooms. Furthermore, only one workplace had closed its employee smoking spaces, where transmission risks are high.

    Less than 20% of the respondents had installed acrylic boards on conference tables and other desks, the survey found.

    The central government released its list of infection countermeasures for workplaces in April. Among the items are: having employees work from home if any of their family members shows coronavirus symptoms; advising workers with symptoms to take COVID-19 tests; disinfecting items and equipment used by multiple staffers; regularly ventilating office spaces; banning employees from eating together; and installing acrylic boards between desks.

    (Japanese original by Sooryeon Kim, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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