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Coronavirus

Coronavirus hits Japanese stores and restaurants

McDonald's and Seven-Eleven shut outlets on reports of employees falling ill

TOKYO -- A growing number of Japanese stores and restaurants are having to shut their doors temporarily as employees become infected with the new coronavirus.

McDonald's Japan, Seven-Eleven Japan and other consumer-focused companies are responding quickly, closing virus-hit outlets and disinfecting them once infections are confirmed.

Retailers and restaurants depend on a wide range of people for staffing, from housewives to students. Because it is difficult to monitor what all their employees are doing in their off hours, spotting and coping with infections quickly is essential.

McDonald's Japan confirmed on March 3 that a female employee at its Kyoto Kisshoin outlet in the city of Kyoto was infected with the coronavirus. After the restaurant was contacted by the municipal government the same day, the company closed the outlet by 9 p.m. to disinfect it.

The employee had attended a live event in Osaka that took place on Feb. 15 and 16 and was the source of many coronavirus infections. She interacted with customers for three days after that.

In response, McDonald's Japan again directed all its outlets to take steps to prevent the spread of the disease and carefully monitor employees' health. The fast food chain has also closed children's play areas at all its restaurants since March 5.

Meanwhile, it emerged on March 7 that a part-time worker at Seven-Eleven Japan's Yamanashi Kamiishimori outlet in the city of Yamanashi, some 115 km west of Tokyo, was infected with the coronavirus. The outlet has been closed since the early-morning hours of March 8.

Hamazushi, a sushi restaurant chain, also learned on March 7 that an employee at its Ibaraki Shinwacho outlet in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, had become infected. The outlet was closed the same day.

The Hamazushi worker attended live events in Osaka between Feb. 15 and 23 but did not show symptoms. The worker mentioned attending the live events following media reports of coronavirus infections at music venues and voluntarily stayed home. The employee was later screened at a public health center and tested positive for the virus.

While the government decides when a restaurant can reopen in cases of food poisoning, a different approach is taken in the case of an infectious disease, according to the Foodservice Industry Research Institute.

At the moment, operators sterilize affected outlets at their own discretion. After disinfection, operators decide when to reopen, assessing the risk of secondary infection, such as close contract between employees, taking necessary preventive measures, the institute said.

The key to blocking the spread of infectious diseases such as the coronavirus in consumer-oriented businesses is close and thorough communication between those businesses and their staff.

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