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As Japan reopens, coronavirus testing slowed by bureaucracy and staff shortages

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By Ju-min Park and Kiyoshi Takenaka

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"TOKYO -- The Japanese capital may have suffered more than 200 excess fatalities from pneumonia and other causes early in the outbreak, possibly dwarfing the period's official coronavirus death count of 16.

Even more deaths could have been undercounted in April, whose numbers will not come out until next month."

https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Coronavirus/Tokyo-s-excess-deaths-far-higher-than-COVID-19-count-data-shows

(cached link if above doesn't work: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache%3ARvZ1hP0MACAJ%3Ahttps%3A%2F%2Fasia.nikkei.com%2FSpotlight%2FCoronavirus%2FTokyo-s-excess-deaths-far-higher-than-COVID-19-count-data-shows%20&cd=1&hl=ja&ct=clnk&gl=it&client=firefox-b-d&fbclid=IwAR2i9Y3kiGaFGmznzYTF9gPDf8dn9Wz7XbosbFQWzJ2wSvEMH7QUc5I_E7I )

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Its the end of May. I don't pretend everything is OK.

I beg to differ, but yes you do, and you also follow me around criticizing and trying to discredit everything I write. I am not a virus expert either, but my co-workers are.;they literally do PCR testing for the government and I spend a lot of time in meetings talking to them. So I think they know a bit more about this than you.

I accept a second wave is inevitable. I accept the seriousness of this disease.

No you don't...you think that the jgov has done everything right and that the numbers are real. I am telling you for a FACT, they are not. And I have also been telling you that even my co-workers don't know everything about this virus, but they know one very important thing, and that is not to take it for granted because its a proven killer that can infect anyone

'OMFG' is not needed here

Yes it is, ...when you are putting up links to bloggers who pretend to be experts (which we call "false authority" -might want to look that up), but actually know nothing, then it definitely merits an OMFG, because this is the kind of stuff that spreads false information throughout the web, and gives the low information people a false sense of safety. Its one thing to instill hope and optimism, its another to be outright foolish and reckless.

STILL - you refuse to offer a feasible way out of lockdown

First of all, I don't have to...that's not my job, and I'm not going to pretend to know the solution to this problem. But it sure seems that a PROPER lockdown is not a bad thing to try.

You also refuse to stay home - which seems to be highly hypocritical.

Its not that I 'refuse' to stay home, its that I cannot stay home. I am a front line worker for my company, and they rely on me so that my co-workers can do their jobs and test people. If I stay home, then we will have to reduce our testing capacity which would be bad for everyone!

You are very quick to criticise Japan - maybe some credit due to the people of Japan who took the 'advisories' quite seriously and have got on top of this themselves.

Playing pachinko, playing mahjong (which a government official got caught doing), and having drinking parties during the SOE is hardly what I consider "taking advisories quite seriously"...look at what NYC is doing...they are very serious about this. If we put in half their effort, we'd probably be okay by now.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

For people having memory trouble :

First identified cluster on 19th of January : https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200217/p2a/00m/0na/012000c

It was at a new year party for tax driver on a boat. This led to contamination of a hospital and first death in Japan. Nothing to do with Diamond Princess.

First domestic case found on 28th January : https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/01/28/national/japan-first-domestic-transmission-coronavirus/

It was a tourist bus driver. Nothing to do with Diamond Princess.

Before/After these others cases appeared in Japan linked to China/Chinese tourists. The Diamond Princess is not the source of all infections cases in Japan even in the early stage.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@smithinjapan: I suggest you look at the infection rate/death per capita before you make comparisons. They were spot on with trace/track/testing from the start. But that only works at the very start. They never had a lockdown, apart from in Daegu briefly. I am not saying the Japanese Government has done a good job - its been awful - But the result so far..

You are very quick to criticise Japan - maybe some credit due to the people of Japan who took the 'advisories' quite seriously and have got on top of this themselves.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

"Yet at the same time, Japan ranks the second lowest in its testing among OECD countries."

And yet, when you point this out to people -- especially if you contrast that with the quick action of South Korea, and how it is a leader -- people will get so angry they rush to hanko a consideration for a response!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

@Yubaru,

He had a number of underlying conditions, including diabetes, and not all hospitals were able to properly care for him in his situation, people get the impression from articles like this that all hospitals anywhere can treat anyone and everyone, that is NOT the case. There was more about that as well, and when they did find a hospital he was admitted. (His case just highlights parts of the problems with the system.

This doesn't seem relevant, it's been known for months people with diabetes and other underlying health conditions are more vulnerable, why this hasn't been considered prior to this event?

It's quite hard to believe how much this person and family suffered while relentlessly being denied help.

The people of the world need to stand up against this type of incompoetance and the people of Japan seem asleep at the while while the Government destroys their future. Wake up Japan!!!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@Mirai: Its the end of May. I don't pretend everything is OK. I accept a second wave is inevitable. I accept the seriousness of this disease. I accept the need for social distance/a gradual reopening of various establishments AND very sensible behaviour

Your use of 'texting' hysterical language such as 'OMFG' is not needed here. Thus far you have promoted nothing - and literally nothing but a complete lockdown. Yet, you stated to be have been on a subway the other morning. STILL - you refuse to offer a feasible way out of lockdown - IF it even happened here!

You also refuse to stay home - which seems to be highly hypocritical. I expect you to ignore this as you don't offer anything to this forum and the rabid left wing who clearly expect the government to pay for out rent, our salaries, and our food indefintely whilst clearly you are a quite an intelligent person who has pushed themselves into a corner on this whole situation.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

The people of the world are sick of a lack of testing, make testing great again!!!!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

@mirai.

it was also detected in France in last November.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

No real news here.

Many of us said this before: too little, too late.

But that's what you call government efforts.

If I showed that kind of efforts at my workplace, I'd be fired instantly!

Get those testings done, the sooner and the more, the better.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@Good luck to you

Nobody here is discussing about ebola, swine flu...or whatever you mentioned.

We are talking about Corona.

And Corona is 100% China responsibility!

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

"Our stance that tests should be conducted on people in need has been consistent from the beginning. We have had testing capacity increased continuously," Takuma Kato, a senior health ministry official, told Reuters.

Takuma Kato sama, No, you have only been consistent in doing everything to limit the number of testing, 6,000 test a day for a country of 127M people and the 3rd largest economy in the world is miniscle when it has the capacity to perform 100K test a day using Fully automatic PCR testing machines alot of which are lying unused.

Struggling with overworked staff and flooded with calls, public health centers have asked the government to allow more private clinics to administer polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

University hospitals and labs have technicians with knowledge to operate PCR test machines yet they are all

idling at home due the SOE when they couldn't have been mobilized to ramp up the testing.

Japan says it can run up to 22,000 PCR tests a day, but less than a third - around 6,000 tests - are actually conducted on a daily basis. About 75% of tests have been processed through public health centers and government institutions, according to the health ministry.

So far as the health centers decide who to test and who not to, the number of test will never increase even

if a test kit that gives results in a minute was used, until the health centers are relieved of some of their duties

like answering calls, arranging for test, receiving and inspecting samples, dispatch of samples for testing,

communicating results to those tested, arranging for hotel accommodation or hospitalisation of those tested positive, communicating regularly with those quarantining at home or hotels, arranging for cremation of those

who passed away due to the virus.

You don't need to be an expert to understand the health centers are the number one bottleneck as to why

the number of test is not increasing and why nothing has been done or planned being done to improve the situation beggars believe.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Actually, the first known case of COVID-19 was reported on Nov 17, 2019 in Hubei province before the discovery of the Wuhan outbreak. And it is thought that there may have been other so far undocumented cases earlier still.

Wuhan is in the Hubei province. So its like Yokohama being in the Kanagawa prefecture.

I don't think its quite yet known who patient zero actually is and when the exact date of the first infection was. Pinpointing the exact date will say a lot as to how this virus came to be, but so far the 'official' running theory is a lady in Wuhan as being patient zero.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@monty.

hiv, Ebola, swine flu, Spanish flu, mad cow...didn’t come from, allegedly China. So you seem to be paranoid about one in six people on planet earth. Do you think the locusts devastating India came from a lab in Wuhan?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Kato, the health minister has a background in economics and finance and not medicine or public health

This alone should set red flags ablaze but for some unknown reason people on here still fail to call out the incompetence and gross negligence. Mind boggling.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Public health centers are at the forefront of Japan's response to the pandemic. While South Korea bolstered its public health system in the wake of past epidemics, Japan has halved the number of public health centers since the 1990s.

The halving of the health centers are not the cause for the extreme low number of

test as the article is trying to make us believe but rather a policy of doing everything

possible to limit the number of test so as to maintain a stranglehold on the data as well as narrative.

Even if there was a test kit that will give results in a minute the number of test won't still increase, the

genuine will to increase testing doesn't exist at all and they have been using the false pretense of not overwhelming the medical system as the reason for the measured low testing.

Japan has been having earthquakes yet the preparedness and response hasn't changed, using

the case of S.Korea preparedness due to past experience with SARS is nothing but flimsy excuse.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

And how bad China is, you can see right now, what they are doing with HongKong.

The whole world is fighting with THEIR virus, and they start this Hongkong-thing!

Like I said, I hope China will get its bill!

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

We are discussing here about test numbers, hospital refuse patients, medical shortages, lockdowns...

Between all these discussions, we should never forget who is responsible for all the mess the world is going through now: China!

All the deaths, all the people who lost or will loose their jobs, people who struggle to get food on the tabe or struggle to pay their rent....

Never forget who is responsible for that: China

And I hope, that China will get the bill for that!

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

I feel they're still trying to keep the Olympics going so censoring and blocking testing.

"All is fine here! Game on!".

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Actually, the first known case of COVID-19 was reported on Nov 17, 2019 in Hubei province before the discovery of the Wuhan outbreak. And it is thought that there may have been other so far undocumented cases earlier still.

@ChristopherPelham Exactly! The first known case is 100% right. However, we know that information has been hidden. Manipulated. Tampered with. And, misguided as a means to keep the truth from getting out. The first case of CODID-19 in Japan we do not really know. How can we?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Actually, the first known case of COVID-19 was reported on Nov 17, 2019 in Hubei province before the discovery of the Wuhan outbreak. And it is thought that there may have been other so far undocumented cases earlier still.

https://www.livescience.com/first-case-coronavirus-found.html

3 ( +3 / -0 )

tamanegi

And as I said, the news is out there and it has been out there since before they postponed the Olympics

0 ( +2 / -2 )

But but, japanese model is working magnificently @_____@

7 ( +9 / -2 )

This is in the public domain and a very well written article.

OMFG...LOL...so you are going to rely on the ramblings of a British right wirnged blogger who works in the financial sector in the UK, over REAL scientists and experts. I am laughing so hard that its starting to hurt!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

There is no success story, horror story would be more apt!

Out of the fear of receiving bad publicity , hospitals began rejecting possible corona virus cases.

Also, the ministry of health were not educating hospitals in advance what was coming.

The virus was coming and Japan had forewarnings-many of them.

Yet, the most likely place to gotten infected in Japan was at a hospital due to lack of knowledge and preparedness!

The only thing that has saved Japan has been the cautiousness of the ordinary Japanese person.

The habit of wearing masks has saved Japan...

0 ( +3 / -3 )

https://thecritic.co.uk/were-all-in-the-big-numbers-now/

This is in the public domain and a very well written article.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

I do not understand. The Japanese Government had no idea about COVID-19 until about October or November of 2019.

Covid19 didn't exist back then. The earliest reported instance was in early December in Wuhan (a woman who worked at a wet market -I still find this term amusing and disturbing -was patient zero), and the Cgove kept it quiet until a whistle blower made it public. By then it was already in Japan via the Love Boat that got quarantined in Yokohama pier for several weeks while virus propagated through most of the ship (again because of stupidity).

I think several asymptomatic people were allowed to go home -probably by taxis, because the first reported non-Diamond Princess infections were four taxi drivers (if memory serves me correctly)

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@Ashley Shiba

With summer here, there are going to be more people out and about going to the beaches, parks and amusement parks this virus is going to spread faster than ever.

Its really refreshing to FINALLY see some logic and intelligence in these post, especially when it pertains to how this virus will most likely spread during the summer months. I have been saying the same thing. Summer is warmer, so people will be out, they will also be obon, and people will be traveling. And those who don't go outdoors, well its not any safer because the dry environment that airconditioners create, also create a perfect breeding ground for the virus.

But for those who want to still believe Trump's stupid rhetoric about how heat and light kills the virus and that "April" will look better, well I got news for you, April has come and gone, and things are barely any better.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

I do not understand. The Japanese Government had no idea about COVID-19 until about October or November of 2019. That said, they had no time to prepare. How can you prepare when China, Korea, and other locations in Asia were suffering from a terrible new virus? It was all over the news since last year! The suddenly, this COVID-19 appeared. I bet that was unexpected by The Japanese Government! Just in your face with no warning!

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

@Mirai Hayashi,

Dude, I was talking about the so called public outcry over Japan's testing limitations not Mr Shobushi's death.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I did say I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a second wave. Way to go with your stupidity, LDP. You’ll never be there for your citizens. What’s so hard to show care for once and drop your egos?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

A couple of things to note; firstly, it should be noted that Kato, the health minister has a background in economics and finance and not medicine or public health. His lack of academic training and experience in medicine made him dependent on his underlings. Lack of testing was glaring from the beginning but not knowing what to do, Kato relied on his entrenched bureaucratic staff to carry out the LDP policy. The Diamond Princess tragedy was handled with incompetence and there is enough evidence to show how the ministry and their frontline staff were ill prepared to handle the situation. Secondly, the ministry said that tests should be conducted on people who are in need, but there have been numerous cases where people who were in need were turned away and sent home where conditions deteriorated. By the time they got to the hospital they had the full blown symptoms and had to be admitted to ICU. There were no isolation surveillance wards or facilities to monitor these patients and it wasn’t until April when there was close to 4500 - 5000 cases per day that hotels were finally enlisted to provide this support. By mid-April that number would be close to 10,000 a day. And thirdly, again, because of Kato’s incompetence, he now can’t get his people to accept the use of university labs to support the testing because the ministry technocrats want to control the data and subsequently the narrative on Japan’s “success.” This is basically what this is all about. Japan’s uniqueness and its success story. Also to note, the person in charge of re-opening the country is not from a medical background; Nishimura is the Economic Revitalization minister.   So in a nutshell, the people with the medical and public health training and experience have not been calling the shots from the beginning. That’s why we ended up with Abenomasks, a failed economic support package, and now a very precarious and dangerous re-opening.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

Reporting or discussing an issue in the media doesn't equate to a public outcry

So what are the rules by which a public outcry is defined?

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

Do you read the Japanese news daily?

I hope you aren't equating what you do or don't read on this site with being equivalent to the things the Japanese are or aren't discussing in their own media.

@Strangerland - Yes I read a daily newspaper, and watch some of the nightly news programs. I didn't say that the news wasn't reported, I said there wasn't a 'public outcry'.

Reporting or discussing an issue in the media doesn't equate to a public outcry - it's what should be happening on a daily basis.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Me too, finally, I have been writing about my Japanese doctor friend who has stated to me be very careful the testing is very low.

With summer here, there are going to be more people out and about going to the beaches, parks and amusement parks this virus is going to spread faster than ever.

Abe and his cronies are not helping with the mickey mouse masks that anyone could and are making themselves. That money could have been spent on testing, supporting the elderly and single parents and others. They all should be hanging their heads in Shame!

8 ( +11 / -3 )

I have to agree with Virusrex on the need for an analysis of cause of death over the past few months. Everyone keeps pointing to it as evidence that covid hasn’t been spreading here and that isn’t necessarily the case. If there were 10,000 less deaths from accidents because of people staying home but 8000 more deaths due to pneumonia, the total number of deaths would decrease by 2000. It hardly supports the theory that many people are touting. Without an analysis looking at total deaths during a certain period is meaningless.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

"Our stance that tests should be conducted on people in need has been consistent from the beginning. We have had testing capacity increased continuously," Takuma Kato, a senior health ministry official, told Reuters.

> Japan says it can run up to 22,000 PCR tests a day, but less than a third - around 6,000 tests - are actually conducted on a daily basis.

> "If we can make good use of resources at places like university labs, PCR testing can exceed 100,000 (per day), far more than 20,000," Yamanaka said in an internet TV debate with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on May 6.

> The health ministry welcomed his proposal, but said further considerations were needed.

So the health ministry is just bold face lying and delaying any action. In this environment, how can the numbers be trusted?

14 ( +14 / -0 )

Its all good the morning Jmedia has been gagged the herd have been feed back to work..........

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Could someone cite evldence of this as my Japanese family, friends and coworkers don't talk about Shobushi.

Dude, this was all over the news...just google it...but basically a 28 year old minor league sumo wrestler experienced the typical symptoms of covid19 in early April, tried to get help, was turned away, symptoms got worse and he died.

Same thing basically happened to Shimura Ken...he tried to get tested, but was told to follow the ridiculous guidelines and that he needed to have a fever for at least 4 days before being tested. The poor guy waited as instructed, doing everything right, but his health deteriorated quickly, and died.

Bottom line: Jgov acted irresponsibly and 3 high profile people have died because of that. And the government still continues to act irresponsibly

4 ( +11 / -7 )

Thing is, a sub-par number of tests won't be able to cover up an inflated amount of deaths. The fact that deaths have not skyrocketed seem to imply that even if the number of tests is not ideal, people don't seem to be dying in accelerated numbers.

Asia Nikkei recently reported that there may be gross under reporting of deaths caused by complications due to Covid19. Basically since the beginning of the year, there have been several deaths in Japan where the causes have not been determined or reported. The suspicion is that many of these deaths were from covid19. The full results should be in next week so I am very interested in seeing if there has been a coverup.

6 ( +12 / -6 )

If you go to Worldometers and sort on the tests per million column you will see that there is basically no correlation with the deaths per million column.

Of course Japan has more cases than the 17,000 announced. But if you believe you can be lucky that many times please go to a casino.

The fact that even Tokyo andOsaka avoided large scale outbreaks is due to the fact that the retransmission rate between people is less than 1 on the average. This has to do with people's behaviour, the number of different people one meets each day and so on.

In fact all nearby Asian countries have much lower death rates than Europe and North America.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I want to see comparison of fatality rate for 2020 compare to 2019 and 2018.

That number alone would be useless without a proper analysis, this year is very different from past years not only because of the pandemic but because of the state of emergency.

What if the numbers are approximately the same? would you think everything is fine? and what even if the number of deaths in general did not change, the number of deaths because of traffic accidents dropped by 5000?

The opposite may be also the case, with a general number increased by thousands of extra deaths, but also including mostly extra deaths not caused by the infection, like suicides by the stress and anxiety of loss of jobs or being always inside their own house, or by people that even needing medical attention were too scared of going to the hospital and died from things that usually are treated successfully.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Lucky? Abe is dreaming... no testing = head in sand = "lucky" ?

13 ( +13 / -0 )

The hospitals weren't over run. They just didn't want to give sick people care because they're scared.

30 ( +30 / -0 )

How did this ‘public outcry’ manifest itself then, because I certainly don’t recall anything that could even be referred to as a ‘murmur’.

Do you read the Japanese news daily?

I hope you aren't equating what you do or don't read on this site with being equivalent to the things the Japanese are or aren't discussing in their own media.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

I have been saying this all along and no one believed me. If your testing is low OF COURSE your going to get low numbers!

Thing is, a sub-par number of tests won't be able to cover up an inflated amount of deaths. The fact that deaths have not skyrocketed seem to imply that even if the number of tests is not ideal, people don't seem to be dying in accelerated numbers.

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

Anyone else frustrated as all hell with the constant "...further considerations were needed." crap?

"Considerations". It's the same thing for every difficulty the government is faced with.

A group of oblivious old men sitting on their hands, and trying to do the minimum amount of work while wringing the maximum amount of game out of their position.

25 ( +25 / -0 )

"Shobushi's death caused a public outcry over Japan's testing limitations"

Could someone cite evldence of this as my Japanese family, friends and coworkers don't talk about Shobushi.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

The death rates for the months of this year are the same or even lower than last year. No massive increase in numbers which would have happened even without testing people.

Testing allows for the collection of more accurate data.

Sakoi is talking nonsense.

-3 ( +9 / -12 )

Once again I'm with you Yubaru.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

It's pretty telling when a Nobel winner offers his lab to help do tests and basically he is told " thanks but no thanks"! This testing fiasco was all about the government keeping all the info and data to themselves so that is could be manipulated and massaged to suit their will.

’Thanks but no thanks’ - The exact same response the Japanese government gave to international nuclear experts after the melt down. Plenty of groups and countries offered to help, but Japan insisted their expertise wasn’t required.

Keeping all the information and data to themselves in order to control the ‘facts’ is how this government operates.

They’ll get away with it too because they’ve created the backup of the Secrecy Law which means they can hide away any information they deem inconvenient. It’s much harder to do this if you accept the help of outside entities.

33 ( +35 / -2 )

Shobushi's death caused a public outcry over Japan's testing limitations and reliance on overstretched public health centers at a time when most experts say widespread virus checks are crucial to contain the pandemic.

A ‘public outcry’, really?!!

How did this ‘public outcry’ manifest itself then, because I certainly don’t recall anything that could even be referred to as a ‘murmur’.

23 ( +24 / -1 )

"It is true that announced figures for infection and deaths are low, but those are based on the curbed number of tests,"

I have been saying this all along and no one believed me. If your testing is low OF COURSE your going to get low numbers! So in essence these numbers are highly inaccurate, and the jgav has been lying to the public so that they can open the economy! This is awful and outrageous!

25 ( +35 / -10 )

It's pretty telling when a Nobel winner offers his lab to help do tests and basically he is told " thanks but no thanks"! This testing fiasco was all about the government keeping all the info and data to themselves so that is could be manipulated and massaged to suit their will.

41 ( +42 / -1 )

At the beginning of April, a young Japanese sumo wrestler known as Shobushi came down with a fever. His coaches tried calling a local public health centre to get him a coronavirus test, but the phone lines were busy.

I really feel sorry for this guy, his family, and everyone involved, including his Oyakata who tried very hard to get him in somewhere.

My condolences to him and everyone on their loss!

However, this article is doing a HUGE disservice to his memory by intentionally and literally "cherry-picking" the facts around his inability to get into any hospital or tested! The authors have left out some very important facts as well and are playing on people's emotions here!

This case was widely reported on multiple news broadcasts, and while some of the information here is the same, what is lacking is the information about the hospitals and WHY many could not take him.

He had a number of underlying conditions, including diabetes, and not all hospitals were able to properly care for him in his situation, people get the impression from articles like this that all hospitals anywhere can treat anyone and everyone, that is NOT the case. There was more about that as well, and when they did find a hospital he was admitted. (His case just highlights parts of the problems with the system)

He was tested, after a number of days of showing symptoms, but just like anyone else here, he had to wait his turn, and here Abe and company should be held accountable, as MAYBE just MAYBE if he had been tested and treated sooner he might still be alive!

11 ( +22 / -11 )

...vested interests and bureaucracy inside Japan's health ministry...

They should just call it what it is: systemic corruption in Japan's medical system. Matched with utter incompetence.

40 ( +42 / -2 )

Censorship to its best.

I want to see comparison of fatality rate for 2020 compare to 2019 and 2018.

21 ( +25 / -4 )

Since nobody local wants the 3K jobs, lets bring in some foreign workers. Oh, wait…

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

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