PCR testing in Naha meant to be limited to Matsuyama ends one hour early after an unexpected number of people arrived, causing long lines and traffic congestion

PCR testing in Naha meant to be limited to Matsuyama ends one hour early after an unexpected number of people arrived, causing long lines and traffic congestion

A long line of people waiting for PCR tests at the Naha Port large passenger ship berth in Wakasa, Naha on August 1

August 2, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo

On the first day of the prefectural emergency declared by Okinawa August 1, 58 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed as the spread of the disease shows no signs of slowing down. In Naha, where PCR testing is being conducted, large numbers of people concerned they have contracted the virus are lining up, while the shopping district is deserted on the first weekend of the two week voluntary quarantine. While families could be seen at resorts on the first day of summer vacation, they were all wearing masks, and taking care to observe virus prevention measures.

Never-ending lines of people and cars. “I wonder if I have coronavirus.” On August 1, at testing sites such as the main one in Naha, residents with worried expressions on their faces stood in long lines. Doctors and staff sweat while administering the tests, worried of getting infected themselves.

“We expect a fair number of COVID-positive individuals to come. Please be sure to take sufficient precaution.”

Just before the tests were starting to be administered the morning of August 1, the staff leaned in with serious expressions to listen to the doctors. At the front of the testing site, the line of people waiting for the test was long. The line of cars waiting stretched out in a spiral, and caused traffic congestion on nearby roads.

Naha City has assumed that the testing would be limited to retail workers from the Matsuyama district of the city, which has become a hotspot for the virus. Flyers for the testing were only handed out in that area, however news of the testing spread by word of mouth and people turned out in droves.

One man, 50, from Naha was a regular at a bar in Matsuyama where someone tested positive, and he raced to get tested. He said nervously, “I heard about the PCR testing from the bar staff and came too.” A Nepalese woman, 22, who lives in Naha and works at a steak restaurant on Kokusai-dori came after a co-worker tested positive. Her place of work encouraged her to go and get tested.

A 25-year-old woman who works in a hostess bar came with two children, age four and zero, saying with a dark expression, “The owner of a bar someone I know works at tested positive. I am worried about my kids getting infected.”

Due to the unexpected turnout, testing ended one hour before originally planned, and those who were unable to be tested raised their voices in displeasure.

A self-employed man, 28, who had come in contact with multiple people who tested positive said, “Even though they had a schedule for conducting the tests, I was turned away.” It was also mentioned that the waiting area constructed at the testing site had people waiting for the test sitting in close proximity, to which the man said angrily, “It was the ‘three Cs” (Closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings). Isn’t there a pretty high risk of spreading the disease?

“Our prediction was naïve,” leaked one of the city employees with a worn out expression after administering tests.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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