TOKYO: The Japanese government on Friday set up a panel of experts in a stepped-up effort to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
“We’ll strengthen countermeasures by setting up a panel comprising infectious disease experts active at the forefront of their fields,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a meeting of government officials.
The government will also set up consultation centers about the virus at a total of 536 locations across the country.
These moves came one day after the government reported the first death from the virus in the country.
Speaking at a press conference, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said his ministry is preparing to send a fifth chartered plane on Sunday to bring home Japanese nationals from China’s Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak.
The plane is expected to return home on Monday. The fifth dispatch will put an end to evacuation operations, Motegi said.
The government dispatched the first four planes to the Hubei capital of Wuhan between Jan. 28 and Feb. 7. The number of Japanese citizens and their families who have returned home so far totals 763.
The Foreign Ministry raised its infectious disease alert for Wenzhou in China’s Zhejiang Province to Level 3, or a recommendation to cancel travel.
At a separate press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government has notified local municipalities that they should conduct virus tests flexibly when infections are strongly suspected, regardless of whether or not the patients have fevers or have recently visited infected areas.