Japan urges firms to have staff work from home over coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: Japan's Health, Labour and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato attends a news conference at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan September 11, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Japan urged businesses on Tuesday to have staff work from home to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and its top-flight soccer division announced it was postponing matches, just months before the country is due to host the Summer Olympics.

A new government strategy for fighting the disease, unveiled at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, urged companies to recommend telecommuting for workers and stagger their shifts. People with symptoms of cold or fever were advised to stay at home, and event organisers told to consider whether to proceed with plans.

Japan has 160 cases of infections from the disease known as COVID-19, as well as 691 discovered on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked south of Tokyo. On Tuesday, broadcaster NHK reported the fourth death among passengers.

Japan has been preparing for years to host the Olympics, which begin in Tokyo in July. Its top flight soccer J.League said it had postponed seven cup matches scheduled for Wednesday and was considering postponing all domestic soccer through the first half of March.

Rather than trying to contain the disease outright, authorities are seeking to slow its expansion and minimise deaths. Telecommuting, or working online or from home, would reduce the infection risk from people gathered in one place.