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Nearly half of kodomo shokudō eateries in Japan, which offer free or low-priced meals to children from families in need, have no prospects of restarting services amid the novel coronavirus epidemic, according to a survey.

Many such eateries hesitate to reopen as they are concerned over infection risks, an official said.

The survey was conducted by a Tokyo-based nongovernmental organization supporting kodomo shokudō and other establishments in late September, covering 342 such eateries across the nation.

According to the survey, 48.0% of all such eateries said they were uncertain about when they can gather children to offer meals, up 9.3 percentage points from the previous survey in June. The rise seems to reflect the resurgence of coronavirus infections in July and August.

As of September, 24.0% of all kodomo shokudō were offering meal services, while 6.1% planned to reopen in October.

The largest number of eateries cited difficulty in infection prevention as a problem during operations, with some worried about the implications of infection clusters.

Therefore, many kodomo shokudō currently focus on providing bento and delivering ingredients to children’s families.

“Kodomo shokudo are places for children to relate with each other. I hope the number of service opportunities, including during Christmas, will increase,” Yutaka Kamaike, an executive of the Tokyo NPO, said.

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