Nagoya – Some foreign residents in central Japan say they are feeling anxious about the coronavirus because of the difficulty in getting necessary information and from the impact of steps to tackle the outbreak, such as school closures.
But support groups serving the foreign community worry that they have not made their concerns more noticeable, as several local authorities in Aichi Prefecture have said few foreign residents have requested information and advice related to COVID-19.
As of Sunday, the prefecture had 167 confirmed cases of the pneumonia-causing virus, one of the highest tallies in the country. Overall, Japan has recorded more than 2,600 cases, including about 700 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined for two weeks in Yokohama, with 66 deaths.
Juliana Nishi, a 34-year-old Brazilian living in Nagoya, worries that her son may start losing some of his Japanese skills as his school, along with others throughout Japan, has been closed since early March.
She and her husband have cut back their working hours so one of them is always at home to take care of the second-grader, but they mainly speak Portuguese.
To keep up his Japanese, they make him read Japanese texts aloud and practice kanji in addition to his homework from school.
Sanu Malla, a 20-year-old Nepalese who attends a Japanese-language school in Nagoya, says he gets information on the virus from online news articles that are translated into English from Japanese.
Although he can find information such as the number of infections by prefecture, he says urgent questions that directly impact him remain unanswered, such as what to do if he thinks he is infected, the cost of a virus test and whether foreign nationals are treated the same as Japanese people.
The Aichi Multicultural Center in Nagoya, which advises residents in 11 foreign languages, said it has received several inquiries a day on the coronavirus since early March, but all were about symptoms. None was related to issues such as school closures or employment, it said.
Yuko Kawaguchi, 43, a representative of “Manabiya@Kyuban,” a nonprofit group offering tutoring to foreign children in a public housing complex in Nagoya, says government-sponsored support centers need to ensure that their presence is widely known.
“Foreign residents generally exchange information among themselves and solve problems within their communities, but some may be out of the loop and feel isolated,” she said. “The coronavirus shock could lead to a rise in job losses. Local authorities should set up support centers that are specific to employment.”