Japan has enacted a lot of strange measures to try and deal with the spread of the coronavirus, such as banning screaming on rollercoasters and giving out traditional fans at restaurants for customers to cover their mouths with.
But on May 19 and 20, the Itako Health Center in Ibaraki Prefecture sent out a document containing probably the most offensive COVID-prevention advice yet: to not eat with foreigners.
According to the health center, the document was aimed at foreigners working as farmers, and they sent it out to agricultural cooperatives and the city hall in the area.
The document said that: “There are many patients infected with COVID that likely caught it from foreigners.” In addition to warning people from eating with foreigners, they also recommended: “To please wear a mask when speaking with foreigners.”
Immediately after being sent out, the document was met with backlash calling it “inappropriate,” and on May 21 the document was retracted.
The health center claimed that they “had no intention of discriminating against foreigners” and apologized for the “wording that caused misunderstanding.”
Despite that apology and retraction, it’s still mind boggling where the original wording came from. All of this could’ve been easily avoided if the health center had just advocated for people to not eat out together in general, and to just wear a mask in general, not specifically pointing out foreigners.
Japanese netizens mostly had similar reactions:
“Just tell everyone to wear a mask and not eat out. Doing otherwise is discrimination.”
“This just causes more discrimination against foreigners who lived in Japan before COVID, and Japanese people with foreign relatives.”
“I mean, by foreigners, they’re not including Westerners.”
“This is the country that’s going to be hosting the Olympics soon?”
In an age where ridiculous misinformation about foreigners can spread easily, and taking back that misinformation and replacing it with the truth can be incredibly difficult, it’s at least good to see a somewhat happy ending here. Let’s hope that unfortunate notices likes these won’t need to be retracted in the future, since they just won’t happen in the first place.
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