• Kahoku Shimpo

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Five public beaches in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, including two which had planned to resume operation for the first time in a decade since they were swept away by the March 2011 earthquake-triggered tsunami, will not open this summer to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The two beaches, Arahama and Kugunarihama, are located in a residential district where many elderly people live, prompting concerns that visitors from within and outside of the prefecture may cause the virus to spread.

The three other beaches in the prefecture, which had all reopened by July 2018, attracted about 35,500 visitors during summer last year.

The city office plans to put up signs asking visitors to refrain from using the beaches.

“It’s unfortunate but understandable,” said a city official in charge.

But some local residents say they feel let down by the decision, and Teruo Takahashi, 63, who heads the local residents association in the Ara district, where Arahama is located, is one of them.

“There were many people who had been waiting for the beach to open. I wanted them to enjoy the beach,’’ said Takahashi.

About 50 residents in 20 households live in the Ara district, many of them elderly or those with illnesses who are at a higher risk of becoming severely ill if they contract COVID-19.

During the Golden Week holidays in May, people whose cars bore license plates from outside the prefecture came to the beach and played along the seashore.

“If someone contracted the disease, the district would be in a state of panic,” said Takahashi, adding that he asked the city to refrain from opening the beach.

With its clear water and gentle waves, the beach is a popular destination for locals, said Takahashi, who himself has played there since he was a child.

“Let’s open the beach when the coronavirus pandemic is over,’’ he said.

This section features topics and issues from the Tohoku region covered by the Kahoku Shimpo, the largest newspaper in Tohoku. The original article was published June 11.

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