TOKYO: The central and local governments in Japan as well as organizations promoting international exchanges have been receiving many inquiries from foreigners about the new coronavirus that is spreading across the country.
The Japan National Tourism Organization has established a multilingual coronavirus hotline that can respond 24 hours a day to inquiries from foreign travelers in English, Chinese and Korean.
The center initially received several calls per day but the daily total surged to 40-60 after coronavirus infection cases started increasing in Japan.
In one case, a man from China’s Hubei Province, the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in China, told a call center operator that his nine-year-old child has developed fever.
Many non-Japanese callers asked about hospitals with multilingual staff.
“Although we have increased the number of operators, there are times when all of our call center lines become busy,” a JNTO official said.
The Osaka International House Foundation offers consultation services in five languages to help foreigners living in Japan. It has received 65 inquiries about the coronavirus by Thursday.
The foundation utilizes a three-way call system to translate conversations between non-Japanese residents and public health center workers.
An increasing number of municipalities are providing information in simple Japanese to facilitate the understanding by foreigners, due to limits in offering multilingual consultation services.
On its website, the Justice Ministry translates the health ministry’s information about the coronavirus and a related questions and answers section into simple Japanese.
The Tokyo-based Council of Local Authorities for International Relations provides in 15 languages information about the characteristics of the coronavirus and things people need to keep in mind in their daily living amid the virus’ spread.
“It is difficult for small municipalities to provide multilingual information services,” an official of the council said. “We want them to utilize our information templates offered in multiple languages.”