Japanese health authority withdraws advisory telling locals not to ‘eat with foreigners’ to stop Covid-19 amid backlash

Health officials in the Japanese Ibaraki prefecture have retracted an advisory that encouraged locals to avoid sharing a meal with foreigners due to Covid-19 concerns, after it was slammed as discriminatory.

The guidance, warning farmers against sharing a meal with foreign nationals, was circulated by the Itako Health Center earlier this week, NHK reported. The advisory was reportedly received by local agricultural cooperatives (JAs) as well as by city authorities in the Ibaraki prefecture, which fall under the center’s jurisdiction.

“If you talk to a foreigner, wear a mask. As well, please do not eat with them,” the document reportedly read. While telling the locals to stay vigilant when mingling with outsiders, the center appeared to suggest that foreigners are one of the primary sources of the coronavirus infection in the area.

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“There are many patients with the new coronavirus suspected of being infected by foreigners,” the authority warned.

The peculiar advisory was short-lived, however. On Friday, the document was pulled, with local health officials saying that its content was “inappropriate.” Apologizing for the blunder, the health center said that it did not intend to “discriminate against foreigners,” suggesting that its wording was an unfortunate mistake.

 “We are sorry if any of the expressions were misleading,” the center said, as cited by Tokyo Reporter.

The apology, however, did not placate online observers, who accused the health officials of racism and xenophobia.

Ibaraki, located northeast of the Japanese capital Tokyo, is the third largest producer of agricultural products in Japan and boasts the largest percentage of farmland among all regions.

The prefecture has reported 9,299 cases of the virus, including 140 deaths as of Friday.

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