Osaka – The government’s cautious approach to broadening COVID-19 testing has created a dilemma for people who suspect they have been exposed to the virus and are choosing to stay at a hotel at their own expense to protect those with whom they live.
Under government guidelines, those who suspect they are infected are asked to stay at home unless fever persists for at least four days.
But people choosing to self-isolate at hotels out of fear of infecting family members are complaining of financial and emotional burdens.
“I had no choice. As someone who is potentially infected with the virus, I would only have caused trouble to my wife and children if I stayed home,” said a man in his 40s who self-isolated at a hotel in Osaka Prefecture where he works.
The man was notified in early April that a client had contracted the virus. They had met twice at the end of March to discuss business for around an hour in a closed room without wearing face masks.
Although he had no symptoms, he moved into the hotel the day after the notification. He switched to teleworking and confined himself to his room except to buy food.
Local authorities in the neighboring prefecture of Hyogo where he lives have refused his requests to be tested, since he did not have a fever of 37.5 Celsius or higher.
In cases where individuals believe they have symptoms but do not fulfill testing conditions, the government asks them to rest at home and isolate themselves from family members.
But the man worried his children may be shunned by their friends if they learned that he had been in close contact with an infected person.
“If you receive confirmation you’ve been infected, expenses for your stay at hospitals and hotels (designated for patients) are paid for from the public coffers. But as long as I’m not allowed to be tested, I’m forced to be burdened financially and emotionally. It’s illogical,” he said.
The man checked out of the hotel after showing no signs of infection during his two-week stay. He did not tell the hotel about the purpose of his stay.
Hotel operators say the government’s testing policy poses problems for them as well.
They are left in the dark if they continue to receive guests like the man in Hyogo. Once it is learned a guest has tested positive, hotels could face temporary shutdowns and revenue losses.
In early April, a hotel in the city of Miyazaki closed for two weeks after discovering that one of its guests tested positive for the virus.
The hotel began asking guests not to use its rooms for self-isolation as the infected person never told the facility he’d had symptoms of COVID-19 and did not want to infect his family.
A health care official at the municipal government said it would continue to ask residents who suspect they are infected with the virus to self-isolate at home.