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Editorial: Take thorough anti-infection steps at disaster-related evacuation centers

  • May 12, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 12:14 p.m.
  • English Press

Even while the threat of the new coronavirus continues, the rainy season will soon be here. There is no telling when an earthquake will strike. It is necessary to consider measures against infectious diseases in relation to other disasters.


A worrisome point is the management of evacuation centers. When a large number of evacuated residents gather in a gymnasium or community center, such a situation causes a crowded atmosphere in a closed space, creating a higher risk of infections spreading.


In the past, there have been cases of influenza and norovirus infections spreading at evacuation centers following the Kumamoto Earthquake, the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Great Hanshin Earthquake.


The Japan Academic Network for Disaster Reduction, an academic cooperation group for disaster prevention consisting of relevant academic societies, has proposed that partitions be prepared at evacuation centers to secure distancing between residents, and that school classrooms be used in addition to gymnasiums. It also stressed the need to secure supplies of disinfectant solution and to prepare electric fans to combat heatstroke.


Fear of the risk of infection at evacuation centers should not make residents hesitant to evacuate. It is hoped that local governments will make efforts to avoid a crowded atmosphere and conduct thorough hygiene management, aiming to open safe evacuation centers.


In addition to public facilities, hotels and ryokan inns will be an important option as temporary shelters to disperse evacuees. The Cabinet Office and other organizations have asked industry groups to help draw up a list of facilities that can be used as shelters.


It is hoped that the industry will actively cooperate and support local governments.


It is also important to deal with evacuees suspected of being infected with the virus.


The city of Kamogawa, Chiba Prefecture, opened evacuation centers last month when a heavy rain warning was issued. It planned to have people with fevers wait in cars.


However, the infection with the new coronavirus tends to cause clotting in blood vessels. Experts warn that staying overnight in a car could cause deep vein thrombosis — commonly known as economy-class syndrome — in which people die from blood clots.


If there is no choice but to stay overnight in a car, plenty of water and regular massage are necessary, and any change in physical condition will require immediate transportation to a medical institution.


It is also expected that medical institutions will accept patients with infectious diseases as well as those injured in a disaster. The hospital’s functions should be maintained by taking such measures as setting up an area within the hospital to deal with the infectious disease cases.


It is also indispensable for each resident to be prepared to take concrete measures. It is necessary to prepare masks and thermometers to prevent infections and bring them when moving to an evacuation center. To avoid overcrowding of public shelters, people should arrange to evacuate to the homes of relatives or acquaintances if those homes are safe. It is vital to consult with such relatives or acquaintances before a disaster occurs.


It is hoped actions to reduce infection risk will be taken in an emergency.


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