Tokyo, Jan. 21 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s health ministry will strengthen border controls in the wake of the spread of a new coronavirus that started in central China, officials said.
The ministry will strengthen its vigilance on visitors from Wuhan, a Chinese city where the virus originated, and Shanghai as the Lunar New Year holiday starts in China Friday, the peak travel season in the country.
According to the ministry, health cards urging passengers in bad shape to report this voluntarily will be distributed during flights from Shanghai.
For flights from Wuhan, the ministry will distribute questionnaires asking passengers for contact details and whether they have symptoms such as fevers, and collect the questionnaires during quarantine.
The ministry is expected to start the measures as early as this week.
A total of 38 flights from Wuhan arrive in Japan per week. The ministry estimates that about 5,700 passengers are on board in total.
From Shanghai, 400 to 500 flights arrive in Japan per week, carrying 10 times more people than those from Wuhan, with the passenger number predicted to rise during the holiday period.
As the new pneumonia strain has no legal definition in Japan, authorities will not be allowed to forcibly hospitalize patients even if the disease spreads in the country.
But such an uncategorized disease can be designated as an infectious disease under a government ordinance, a measure that allows authorities to forcibly hospitalize patients or put restrictions on work by patients.
For now, the ministry is not considering such a designation, an official said, noting that the virus is believed to have low toxicity given the small death toll.
But health minister Katsunobu Kato said that the ministry may consider a designation depending on how the World Health Organization sees the disease.