Care homes for elderly people are taking full-fledged measures to prevent mass COVID-19 infections.

They are concerned that once elderly people get the virus, their symptoms tend to become serious.

Workers at Wayoen, a home for the elderly in the city of Chiba, have been instructed to make sure that they wear masks, check their temperatures, wash their hands and gargle while on duty so as not to bring in the virus.

Alcohol disinfectant and humidifiers are installed at many places in the facility, where about 170 people live. While these are the same as measures against influenza, Hiroshi Takahashi, 58, head of the elderly care home, said, “We’re taking thorough measures although they may be too much.”

“I see to it that I wash my hands and gargle also outside of the facility,” Wayoen staff member Takako Tsushima, 52, said.

“I’m instructing our staff employees to avoid crowds,” said Yoshiaki Ishii, manager at Oasis Nagaoka, an elderly home in the city of Fukuoka. The facility hopes to adopt “special measures” to help residents avoid infection with the new coronavirus, he said.

A 42-year-old senior official of a company that runs five facilities in the city of Osaka said, “We must be careful about infectious diseases because we serve elderly people.”

Staff at the facilities have been instructed to take time off work when they feel unwell, even if only slightly. Even relatives of elderly people living in the facilities are banned from meeting with residents if they are not in good shape.

Noting that many things remain unknown about the new coronavirus, an official of the health ministry asked operators of elderly care homes across the country to try to get “up-to-date and accurate information” and take all-out measures including washing their hands and disinfection.

“Practicing cough etiquette and washing hands, the same as measures against influenza, are actions that we can take immediately” to prevent infections of the new virus, Erisa Sugawara, professor at the graduate school of Tokyo Healthcare University, said.

“It would be reassuring if elderly facilities deepen relations with medical institutions that have doctors specializing in infectious diseases so that consultations are available whenever necessary,” she said.

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