Foreigners in Japan lack virus information

NHK -- Apr 02
As the new coronavirus spreads in Japan, some foreigners in the country lack information due to language barriers.

Information on containing the virus, symptoms to watch out for and how governments are helping is widely available, but mostly in Japanese. Some foreigners in Japan who have trouble understanding the language say they feel left behind.

Kobayashi International Clinic in Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo, offers services in six languages including Thai and Tagalog.

The clinic has been receiving inquiries from foreign residents about the virus since the start of March.

Clinic head Kobayashi Yoneyuki says even Japanese find it hard to understand the system for testing for the virus, and that foreigners know little about it.

Japan's health ministry set up a hotline in January, but it does not accept calls in foreign languages.

A Japan Tourism Agency emergency line for foreign tourists received about 6,400 calls related to the outbreak from January 22 through March 31.

More and more foreigners have been expressing concern about the lack of information.

Tokyo-based nonprofit organization TELL Lifeline offers psychological counseling in English by phone.

The NPO used to get about 20 calls a day, but since February it has been getting at least 100, mostly about the virus.

One caller expressed concern about the overwhelming lack of information in English compared to Japanese.

Another asked about the effectiveness of wearing masks, citing contradictory views in Japan and abroad.

TELL Lifeline director Vickie Skorji said it would be helpful if some government resources were linked to organizations at the grassroots level and communities of foreigners.

She said that would help them get information and reduce their anxiety.

- NHK