How red light district, sex work made outbreak worse

Dozens of sex workers have been infected with coronavirus in Japan’s biggest red light district sparking fears hundreds of customers may have been infected with the killer disease.

Japanese media reports scores of people working in the adult industry in the notorious Kabukicho district of Tokyo have been confirmed to have COVID-19.

Cases of coronavirus in Japan are surging with more than 2100 cases and 57 deaths, with Tokyo’s governor warning of a looming “explosive rise in infections”.

Tokyo-based newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reports that sex workers and employees at the district’s many adult-themed clubs have been confirmed to have coronavirus.

Shinjuku Ward officials said the number of people infected in the area has been increasing rapidly since late March.

Medics investigating the area’s outbreak found also infected were hostesses who often sit very close to customers at adult clubs, and touts who approach people in the streets to solicit business.

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Officials believe about 25 per cent of all cases within the ward can be linked to the sex industry – and they fear the numbers of infections are much higher.

Fears loom hundreds, if not thousands, may have been infected by either engaging in services or passing through Kabukicho, known as the “Sleepless Town”.

It is estimated up to 300,000 people per day visit Kabukicho, and it is believed to have around 300 sex-related businesses.

Health officials are desperately trying to trace how they first contracted the virus in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19.

However, there has been a lack of co-operation as people do not want to admit to visiting sex workers and prostitution technically remains illegal.

Kabukicho also includes many bustling bars, restaurants and karaoke parlours which are open into the early hours.

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Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike urged people not to go to these types of establishments in a press conference on Monday.

She said: “For the time being, I want young people to refrain from going to karaoke rooms and live music clubs, and middle-aged and older people to avoid visiting bars and nightclubs that involve entertainment activities.”

It came just hours before the city recorded its highest number of new coronavirus cases in a day – with 70 – amid building pressure for a full scale lockdown.

The governor also asked residents to avoid non-essential outings until April 12 to avoid spreading the virus further.

Shinjuku mayor Kenichi Yoshizumi said hospitals were “under pressure” amid the growing outbreak.

He said: “It cannot be overlooked that people who are unaware that they are infected can infect an unspecified number of people without knowing, which could lead to the collapse of the medical system.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing calls to order a nationwide lockdown to control the pandemic.


Economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said: “We’re just barely holding it together.

“If we loosen our grip even a little, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a sudden surge in cases.”

A survey of 64,000 people in Tokyo had at least 4,500 people report at least one symptom of the virus, much higher than the official case total of around 500.

Japan have a low infection rate despite its proximity to China, where the virus originated, but reportedly there has been a lack of widespread testing.

Japan had been insisting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could go ahead before the sports spectacular was finally cancelled last week.

Mr Abe has been said to have wanted the event to showcase Japan’s resurgence under his leadership after the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011 and the so-called “lost decades” of economic stagnation.

Koichi Nakano, a political analyst at Sophia University in Tokyo, told the Times: “You can also see the Olympics behind Abe’s hands-off approach to the virus.

“The recorded infections and tests are bizarrely low.”

Barbara Holthus, a sociologist with the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo, told “After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the government initially refused to admit the reactor meltdowns.

“Today, there remains a great distrust of official statements.”

The Japanese Health Ministry has strongly denied the cover-up allegation and said it was conserving its resources so it can cope with a large-scale outbreak.

Coronavirus continues to sweep the globe, with the total figure of infections fast approaching 900,000 and more than 44,000 people dead.

Meanwhile, it is claimed spy agencies are rushing to get hold of medical equipment as the world faces a global shortage.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and has been republished with permission

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