The health ministry, which is at the heart of the nation's ongoing battle with the coronavirus outbreak, is struggling to keep non-Japanese updated on the rapidly escalating situation in a timely manner, hampered by a dearth of staff proficient in foreign languages.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the English version of the ministry's website made no mention of the COVID-19 infection anywhere prominent on its top page, relegating any coronavirus-related links to midpage or lower, with those all directing viewers to original press releases written exclusively in Japanese.

"Since our main job has been to update our Japanese website, it has inevitably led to difficulties in providing English-language information in a timely way, so one option is to use machine translation for now," ministry official Takuma Kato said. The official said a future redesign of the English website to better highlight updates pertaining to the new virus is not guaranteed, citing the need to overcome technical difficulties.