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Panic Spreads in Japan Over Swine Flu

Posted May. 23, 2009 09:46,   


Japan is taking major precautions against the outbreak of a new type of swine flu, which has spread to Osaka and Kobe and threatens to hit Tokyo and its population of more than 10 million.

Japan’s government, schools and companies are on high alert over the flu. Prime Minister Taro Aso even appeared on a television program Thursday to ask his people to stay calm.

According to the Tourism Ryokan Association of Osaka and Kyoto, reservations amounting to 360,000 nights at hotels or other lodging facilities were canceled from Saturday through Thursday.

Travel agencies and hotels in the two cities are expected to suffer losses of 4.3 billion yen (45.7 million U.S. dollars), so they asked for financial support from the government.

Most Japanese schools canceled field trips usually scheduled this month and the next. Around 4,000 schools in the regions affected by the virus were also closed.

Tens of thousands of masked spectators visited the Expo ’70 Stadium to watch the Asian Football Confederation Champions League match late Wednesday. Unmasked spectators were banned from entering the stadium.

Schools and companies asked students and employees to wear masks but the masks were sold out.

In an Osaka court, the judge, prosecutors, lawyers and defendants appeared with masks on their faces a few days ago, along with the audience. Most daycare centers, kindergartens and nursing homes were closed in and around Japan`s second-largest city.

More female workers also took a leave of absence to care for their babies and parents.

The swine flu scare has also affected Japanese companies. Mobile communications giant NTT DoCoMo halted an exhibition to release its new mobile phone models, and West Japan Railway Company postponed its recruitment plan.

Certain companies have recommended that their employees work from home and others have canceled job fairs or news conferences. In the run-up to the Tokyo assembly election July 12, Japan’s New Clean Government Party asked its lawmakers not to shake hands with voters.

The virus has rapidly spread across Asia. Following Japan, China, and Taiwan, the Philippines announced its first case of swine flu.

Japan’s Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said a Korean in his 20s who arrived at Narita International Airport Thursday from the United States tested positive for the virus and was treated at Narita Red Cross Hospital.