• Kyodo, Reuters


A worker at a 7-Eleven convenience store in Yamanashi Prefecture has contracted the new coronavirus, the company said on Sunday.

The unit of retail group Seven & I Holdings said it temporarily closed the store for cleaning and disinfection after the infection was confirmed on Saturday and implemented various safety policies at its shops nationwide, including the wearing of masks.

A separate coronavirus patient in the prefecture was in serious condition, the Yamanashi Prefectural Government said Saturday. The man in his 20s tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday and is unconscious with a fever, pneumonia and meningitis, the prefectural government said. This marks the first case in Japan where the new coronavirus has caused meningitis, University of Yamanashi President Shinji Shimada said at a news conference on Saturday.

Across the nation, a total of 33 new infections were reported on Sunday, including 14 in Osaka, 11 in Aichi Prefecture, three in Hokkaido, two each in Hyogo and Kochi prefectures, and one in Saitama Prefecture.

In Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, a female nurse in her 50s was infected, the local government said Sunday. The number of infections in Hokkaido rose to 101.

The number of infected people in Japan rose to 1,189, including crew members and passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

In Nagoya, a deceased man tested positive for COVID-19, according to an individual close to the matter. The elderly man died after being admitted to a hospital in the city after complaining that he wasn’t feeling well. There’s a chance he came in contact with someone who had already tested positive for COVID-19, the city said.

The death toll in Japan climbed to 14.

In Yokohama, 1,406 individuals who used the same gym as a 70-year-old man who tested positive on Thursday are all considered at risk of contact infection, the Yokohama Municipal Government announced on Saturday. The gym, which has been closed to undergo cleaning, is Central Wellness Club Tressa in Kohoku Ward.

According to the same source, the man’s results showed he was carrying the virus after he died Saturday. He was not included in the 69 cases of infection announced by Aichi Prefecture and Nagoya on Saturday.

Japan has drawn criticism for having insufficient capacity to test for the virus and for not fully mobilizing what capacity it does have.

“I expect testing capacity for the coronavirus will increase to over 7,000 per day by the end of this month from around 4,200 as of March 5 and 6,200 now,” because national health insurance can now be used to cover coronavirus testing, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told NHK in an interview aired Sunday. The move, however, only shortens the process for getting tested.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government will launch a plan to extend zero interest loans with no collateral to small and midsized companies reeling amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The state-owned Japan Finance Corp. is among entities that will join the program aimed at helping small businesses gain access to financing to help them stay afloat, Abe said at a meeting of a government task force on the coronavirus response Saturday.

“We will make our utmost efforts to keep jobs and make sure companies can maintain their business,” Abe said.

The government will also financially support parents forced to take time off to look after their children due to Abe’s abrupt decision to close all schools from last Monday to the start of the new school year in April.

Such parents will receive money to make up for any shortfall in their income due to their time off from work, Abe said. The government will also pay for programs to take care of children during the period of school closure.

Abe instructed Cabinet members at the task force meeting to step up work to compile a fresh emergency package on Tuesday. It will be aimed at mitigating the negative economic impact, strengthening measures to support parents who have school-age children and preventing the spread of the virus.

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