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2 Tokyo care home residents locked in room for 11 days during COVID cluster infection

In this photo provided by a reader, a room door handle is secured to a corridor handrail to prevent the door from being opened from inside, at the Kurume En care home in Kodaira, Tokyo.

TOKYO -- Two residents were confined to a room for 11 days last December when a COVID-19 cluster broke out at a care home here for people with physical or mental disabilities, the Mainichi Shimbun has found.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is interviewing staff at the Kurume En care home in Kodaira, Tokyo, to determine if the incident constituted physical abuse as defined by Japan's law against abusing people with disabilities.

    Kurume En is legally known as a "relief facility," or a care home stipulated in the Public Assistance Act for people who have difficulties in their daily lives due to physical or mental disabilities, or financial circumstances. Kurume En is operated by Marimo Kai, a social welfare corporation in Kodaira.

    According to the home and other sources, 23 residents contracted the coronavirus in late December 2022. A woman in her 70s, who was hard of hearing and tested positive for COVID-19, and another woman in her 70s, who'd had close contact with an infected person, were locked together in one room from Dec. 21 to 31.

    The facility staff tied the room's door handle to the handrail in the hallway with a thick string so that it could not be opened from the inside. The staff reportedly entered the room from the balcony connected to the other rooms, served meals and changed diapers. The facility explained that this was done to avoid the spread of infection should the pair wander.

    Fixing doors so that they cannot be opened may constitute a physical restraint and is prohibited except in an emergency. Although a record must be kept in case of an emergency, the facility did not record the situation.

    The facility director said, "Even though people were able to enter and exit from the balcony, locking the door itself leads to abuse. We should have been more careful. We will review our manual on physical restraints."

    (Japanese original by Shinji Kurokawa, Tokyo City News Department)

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