Small music clubs in Osaka emerge as new coronavirus spread sites
TOKYO Small music clubs in Japan's western city of Osaka have emerged as a new transmission ground for the coronavirus, showing the difficulty of stemming the outbreak even as the authorities have focused on stopping large gatherings.
Japan has closed schools, zoos and theme parks, and drastically scaled back public events since the outbreak.
The annual spring sumo tournament is even being held in Osaka without spectators.
Despite those steps, and the government urging telecommuting, there are signs that smaller crowds - including those at restaurants and tiny "live houses" where fans stand cheek by jowl to hear live music - are spreading the virus.
Osaka reported its first coronavirus case on Feb 27. As of yesterday, it had 73 cases, according to data from the local government and NHK. At least 49 of those were linked to four small music venues.
As of Monday, 34 cases were linked to Soap opera classics Umeda and another 18 to Live House Arc. About 100 people attended each performance.
Another 19 people outside Osaka, from as far away as Hokkaido, in the north, and Kumamoto, in the south, have been traced back to those venues, the authorities said.
All four clubs have been disinfected under the direction of Osaka health authorities.
"The only way to prevent this disease from a very rapid transmission and high infection rate is to reduce person-to-person contact," said Mr Eyal Leshem of Sheba Medical Centre in Israel, which has treated virus patients evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise liner.
On its website, Live House Arc said it was cancelling all of its events for the rest of the month.
Japan has more than 1,000 cases of the virus, including about 700 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo last month.
Sixteen people have died, including seven from the liner. - REUTERS