• The Okinawa Times

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A travel website operator in Okinawa Prefecture is offering health care professionals and other essential workers at the greatest risk of COVID-19 infection free transportation and accommodation, aiming to ease their fears of public or family transmission.

The project targets medical personnel, nursery staff, caregivers, drivers of public transportation and parcel delivery services, and supermarket clerks, all of whom have contact with various people in their daily work. Many workers in these occupations are facing difficulty in their daily lives, refraining from going home and avoiding public transport for fear that they might infect their family members and customers. Some health care professionals are resorting to sleeping in their cars and opting to stay away from their families.

The Tsunagu (connect in Japanese) project matches essential workers with hotels and rental car businesses. It receives requests through a dedicated page on Okiraku, an Okinawa portal website, and reserves a rental car or accommodation for the applicants. About 70 rooms from two hotels in Naha and one each in the city of Ginowan and the town of Kadena are available for the project. Vehicles from major rental car firms are also available.

The project invites donations from the public, and part of the money will be used to distribute masks and other materials to partner hotels and rental car businesses as protection against infection.

SEEC Inc., which operates the Okiraku site, contributed ¥2 million in initial funding for the project. The money is paid to the participating businesses, which have been suffering from reduced tourist traffic during the pandemic.

The company is aiming to establish a system to continue assisting essential workers in their daily lives.

“The new coronavirus is settling down here now but it’s believed to be a long battle. We plan to carry on with the project to keep supporting the workers,” said Hisao Matsukawa, who heads the travel business department at SEEC.

Applications and donations can be made at https://oki-raku.net/tsunagu.

This section features topics and issues from Okinawa covered by The Okinawa Times, a major newspaper in the prefecture. The original article was published May 14.

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