National

Amid dengue outbreak, eviction also a threat to Yoyogi Park's homeless

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

The greatest danger the outbreak of dengue fever traced to Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park poses to the homeless there may be the threat of eviction, not infection, advocates said Tuesday.

The park is a hub for homeless people, many of whom take shelter inside makeshift blue tarpaulin tents.

Of the 35 people reported infected with the virus as of Tuesday, all had visited the park within the past month, but none were homeless.

Dr. Satoshi Kutsuna of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine was guardedly optimistic that any homeless possibly infected with the virus had escaped without falling victim to the most serious symptoms, including high fever, muscle pain and nausea.

Even without medical treatment, the disease generally passes after a week. Still, it’s possible things could turn very nasty, he added.

“At the moment, I’d say living in Yoyogi Park is a risky act in itself. So they should be provided with, say, temporary homes to take shelter in until the outbreak subsides,” Kutsuna said.

He stressed that the homeless likely had no role in the spread of the virus, given that most of them are in the park only at night, while the mosquitoes that carry the virus are active during daytime.

When contacted by The Japan Times, five Tokyo-based NPOs and agencies supporting the homeless said they weren’t aware of anyone with symptoms of the virus. They also said they weren’t planning to do anything out of the ordinary to locate potential victims, other than to continue with their routine patrols of the area.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit organization Moyai said it is more fearful that Tokyo officials will seize the chance to evict the homeless on the pretext of needing to eradicate the mosquitoes there. Though metropolitan officials tolerate the presence of homeless in the park, they also view them as a nuisance, according to Moyai representative Ren Onishi.

“So we’re afraid that the metropolitan government might start ordering them to pack up their stuff and go under the pretext that it needs to spray pesticide over the area or something,” Onishi said.

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