• JIJI, Staff Report


As Japan readies to welcome a rush of Chinese visitors during the Lunar New Year holiday period, hotels and other commercial facilities are struggling to devise appropriate measures to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus strain.

One major hotel chain operator said that it did not plan to take special measures against the threat posed by the new coronavirus.

In general, hotel reception staff are unable to take ordinary preventative measures, such as wearing surgical masks, as it is considered improper for them to cover their faces when attending to guests.

Another hotel company, Prince Hotels Inc., plans to post warnings around its lobbbies in Japanese, English and Chinese calling on visitors to alert hotel staff if they feel unwell.

Among restaurant chain giants, neither McDonald’s Co. (Japan) nor Ootoya Holdings Co. have taken special measures, although both firms have underscored the importance of ordinary hygiene management measures such as requiring employees to wash their hands.

One source from a major department store operator said that companies’ hands are tied, as measures to distinguish Chinese visitors from other people would be infeasible.

Some companies, such as electronics stores, see the wave of visitors from the coronavirus-struck Asian neighbor as a business opportunity. Laox Co. and Bic Camera Inc. plan to increase their stock of high-performance Japanese masks to meet demand from Chinese visitors.

Japan is the most popular foreign travel destination for Chinese people during the seven-day holiday starting Friday, according to Chinese online travel agency Ctrip, followed by Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

Lunar New Year is the busiest period in China in terms of movement, with some 3 billion people expected to move around during the 40-day period that encompasses the weeklong holiday.

The epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in China from 2002 to 2003 was fueled partly by authorities not disclosing information regarding the deadly disease before the Lunar New Year holiday in 2003.

A mom-and-pop candy store at a famous onsen (hot spring) resort area in Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture has caused controversy online after it put up a poster banning the entry of Chinese nationals in order to avoid the new coronavirus strain, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

The store owner told the paper he created the sign in Chinese using a translation app and put it up in front of the store from around Friday.

Following criticism of the poster on the internet — with some calling for an apology — the store owner said he will use less sensational wording, according to the report. But he did not change his basic stance on rejecting Chinese customers, the report said.

The move could have an impact on the tourism industry in Hakone amid an expected rise in numbers of Chinese tourists during the Lunar New Year holiday period, it added.

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