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Cities and firms begin disclosing patients' workplaces as Japan records third Diamond Princess death

Kyodo, Staff Report

Japan on Sunday recorded the third death of a Japanese national who had been on the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship as infections linked to the virus continued to rise nationwide.

Some municipalities and companies have also started disclosing information about where infected people work.

The health ministry said Sunday a man in his 80s who had been on board the cruise ship had died of pneumonia. However, the ministry did not say whether the man was infected with the COVID-19 virus nor whether he was a passenger or crew member because it had not obtained consent from the deceased’s family.

The man was also suffering from a chronic disease, according to the ministry.

The ministry also said Sunday 55 crew members and two passengers of the Diamond Princess were newly found to be infected with the virus, bringing the total number of those infected onboard to 691.

Nagoya Expressway Public Corp. said Saturday that a man in his 60s from Nagoya who was announced to have tested positive works at a firm that collects expressway fees.

The firm said it will close six of its tollgates that see relatively little traffic until early March due to a shortage of workers, as the man had been tasked with driving fee collectors to their working posts. Fifty-two of the collectors believed to have had close contact with the man have been asked to stay home.

In Hokkaido, the Asahikawa Municipal Government announced Saturday that a man in his 70s who tested positive runs a pork cutlet restaurant chain called Hokkaido Isen in the city, and that the shop will be closed until Monday for disinfection. No other staff members have shown symptoms. The city government took the rare move of disclosing the name of the restaurant after the man requested that it do so. He said he wanted his customers to be given correct information, according to an Asahi Shimbun report.

On Sunday, the board of education in Ebetsu, Hokkaido, said a woman in her 50s who had tested positive and which was announced by the prefectural government a day earlier, works part time at an elementary school in the city serving school lunches.

Governments in Hokkaido also announced Sunday that nine people have been newly found to be infected, while the Chiba Prefectural Government announced the same day that a man in his 40s in the prefecture returned a positive result. The Chiba government said the man took business trips to Hiroshima and Gifu prefectures after showing symptoms of being infected, such as joint and muscle pain. New cases also emerged in Nagoya on Sunday, with the municipal government announcing a man and a woman in their 70s had tested positive.

On Saturday, the Chiba Municipal Government announced that a teacher in her 60s at Makuhari-Hongo Junior High School tested positive. The local board of education said it will ask all of some 3,900 teachers and staff working at public schools in the city if they have experienced any symptoms in the past two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Association for Disaster Management issued a statement Saturday protesting the prejudice and workplace bullying experienced by some of its members who helped transport and rescue passengers infected with the coronavirus while on board the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship.

According to the statement, some of its members complained that they were treated as if they were infected once they returned to work, or that they were asked by nursery schools and kindergartens to keep their children at home for a period of time.

There were some instances in which employers demanded the members apologize for participating in the rescue mission. The statement denounced these reactions as tantamount to “human rights violations,” calling on the society to rethink prejudice-based responses.

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