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AFP
February 17, 2020

Avoid crowds to prevent virus outbreak, Japan health minister warns

World

AFP
February 17, 2020

TOKYO: Japan's health minister on Sunday urged the public to avoid crowds and "non-essential gatherings", including notoriously packed commuter trains, to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading in the country.

Katsunobu Kato warned the nation was "entering a new phase" in the outbreak of the virus, which has infected nearly 60 people in Japan so far.

"We want to ask the public to avoid non-urgent, non-essential gatherings. We want elderly and those with pre-existing conditions to avoid crowded places," Kato said after a meeting of a panel of experts.

"I think it´s important that we exercise Japan´s collective strength. We wish to ask the Japanese people for their cooperation and it will take everyone being united to tackle this infectious disease," he told a press conference.

Kato said cases with no clear transmission chains and involving people who have not travelled to China, where the outbreak began, meant Japan was entering a new stage. The government will draft fresh guidelines for doctors about when to suspect possible coronavirus infections and for ordinary citizens to know when to seek medical care.

Most infected individuals seem to experience mild conditions similar to the common cold and may not realise that they have the disease, risking possibly spreading it to others, said Takaji Wakita, chief of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases who headed the expert panel.