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I haven’t seen a post on Ricochet talking specifically about the coronavirus, now known as 2019-nCoV or COVID-19, since Rodin’s post on the 7th. Let me take this opportunity to provide a short update from the other side of the world in Yokohama, Japan. While it’s not China, and not as bad off as China, the way this outbreak is progressing, Yokohama is now, as I’ll explain below, another front in the COVID-19 outbreak. Although I was in the Navy and spent time working in Emergency Management, now I’m just a plain ex-pat enjoying my retirement overseas, so most of what I’ll relate here comes from personal observations and local news sources.
Even with the occasional friction that occurs between China and Japan, Japan remains a favored destination for Chinese travelers. Before the outbreak kicked off, there were tons of Chinese tourists at popular locations across Japan every day. The last time I visited Kyoto a couple of years ago, the big tourist sites, buses, and sidewalks were packed as I had never seen them before. The famous shopping area in Tokyo called Ginza was crowded every day with tour buses and tourists, and while not all of them were Chinese, a vast majority appeared to be. However, starting at about the beginning of this month, Japan’s tourist locations saw traffic dry up. A store owner at Asakusa, one of the most popular sites in Tokyo, just mentioned on a news program that the number of tourists is way down, about 10 percent of normal, or a drop of 90 percent. One of the bigger duty-free stores called Laox, which sells electronics and electrical goods, is decreasing its workforce by 20 percent due to the outbreak.
Although it’s a different scale than China, the number of people in Japan infected with COVID-19 continues to slowly increase, as of today at 63, which I believe is the second highest after China. The first reported case of Japanese who tested positive with COVID-19, but had not visited Wuhan, was a bus driver who had driven a tour group of Chinese from Wuhan a few weeks ago. Soon afterward, a tour guide that had worked on one of his routes was also confirmed to have it. Whether the guide caught it from tourists from China or the driver hasn’t been reported, although this was a big question in the news a couple of weeks ago.