Hyogo nurseries, day care centers reopen

KOBE (Kyodo) Nursery schools and day care facilities reopened Saturday in Hyogo Prefecture after the government relaxed restrictions in areas hit by H1N1 swine flu.

Schools in Osaka Prefecture, meanwhile, were preparing to resume classes Monday.

The resumptions are part of the Kansai region’s efforts to get back to normal after the government clamped down with a strict but commercially damaging influenza protocol originally designed to protect against bird flu.

The government on Friday downshifted its response to H1N1 influenza, locally called “shingata infuruenza” (new-type influenza), after realizing the domestic outbreak was an apparently milder form of the contagion that has been blamed for killing dozens of people in Mexico.

Japan’s previous policy, amended in February, was geared to address the more virulent H5N1 avian flu, and called for sweeping measures to be taken in all affected areas.

But the new flu strain, H1N1 influenza A, is more or less localized.

Confirmed domestic swine flu cases hit 338 Saturday evening in seven prefectures, although most were in Hyogo and Osaka.

The other prefectures are Shiga and Kyoto in Kansai, and Tokyo, Saitama and Kanagawa in Kanto.

On Saturday, more cases emerged in Hyogo, Shiga and Kyoto and a second case in Saitama.

The new Saitama case involved a 29-year-old man who caught it from a friend who tested positive Friday, prefectural officials said early Saturday.

The two men toured Osaka and Kyoto from Sunday to Tuesday, taking in a baseball game at Kyocera Dome and sightseeing spots in the ancient capital, before flying back to Haneda airport in Tokyo on All Nippon Airways flight No. 40 from Itami. Both got fevers Friday morning, Saitama officials said.

The man, who works as a security guard in Tokyo, also said he rode in the same car with a colleague in his 60s on Thursday but that the colleague has not developed any flu symptoms, the officials said.

In central Tokyo, the total stayed at three, with the latest case, a 25-year-old man from Mitaka who was in Osaka from May 14 to Wednesday, testing positive for the new flu on Friday.

The man said he watched standup comedy acts and went to Universal Studios Japan during the one-week stay.