BY YUSUKE MASUDA/ Staff Writer
July 14, 2020 at 16:04 JST
The Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka is lit up in yellow to encourage caution against rising cases of the new coronavirus on July 12. (Sayuri Ide)
OSAKA--The city's landmark tower is being lit up in yellow in a call for vigilance against the coronavirus, as cases rise in Osaka Prefecture.
The visual warning comes after the prefectural government assessed that the virus is spreading particularly among young people visiting entertainment districts.
The prefectural government illuminated the Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka’s Naniwa Ward with yellow lights on July 12, in accordance with the guidelines it laid out for issuing the warning.
“The number of new cases in Tokyo has topped 200 for the past few days, largely due to many infections confirmed in red-light districts,” Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said at a meeting of the prefecture’s task force to combat the coronavirus. “We will caution against the virus as Osaka Prefecture is also seeing a similar trend.”
In issuing the warning, the prefectural government is urging people to avoid settings where they could be exposed to other people's airborne droplets.
It also asks them to refrain from going to bars, cabaret clubs, host clubs and other establishments not recognized by the prefectural government as venues that have taken sufficient precautions against COVID-19. The prefectural government issues a special sticker for establishments that meet its guidelines.
So far, around 4,000 stickers have been issued. Prefectural officials said they need to get more establishments to cooperate.
The request to avoid risky settings and establishments will remain in place through July, or until the yellow advisory is turned off after the number of new cases drops.
The prefectural government will also set up a testing center at a parking lot in the Minami district of the city by the weekend.
Officials are most concerned about the spread of the virus among young people. The prefectural government’s analysis of 209 COVID-19 patients who tested positive between June 14 and July 11 found that 70 cases--more than 30 percent of the total--were linked to cluster infections from Minami’s entertainment area.
The analysis also showed 78 percent of all patients during that period were between the ages of 18 and 39.
Those showing no symptoms can be tested for the virus at the testing site being set up. Prefectural officials will also warn college students and those in their 20s to be vigilant.
Thirty-two new cases were confirmed in the prefecture on July 12, meeting the conditions for a yellow advisory.
The prefectural government is using the following criteria as a guide for when to light the Tsutenkaku Tower yellow: when the seven-day average of patients with unknown routes of transmission reaches 10 or more and when the number is double that of the previous week; and when new cases total 120 or more in a week and when more than half of those new cases were reported in the past three days.
The yellow light came after the prefectural government eased the alert criteria on July 3 to make it easier to resume social and economic activities while still implementing anti-COVID-19 measures.
A red warning, or a state of emergency, will be issued when at least 70 percent of hospital beds for seriously ill patients are occupied within 25 days after the yellow light is issued--a situation believed to lead to the health care system becoming overstretched.
As of July 12, the occupancy rate was 2.7 percent.
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