Japanese mayor says men should shop during coronavirus pandemic because women “take longer”


The number of confirmed virus cases in Japan has exploded in recent weeks – dashed hopes that the government’s initial response to the virus has successfully controlled its spread. Japan had 11,950 confirmed cases on Thursday, including 299 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. As of March 1, the country had 243 cases.

This peak saw a series of new restrictions being implemented nationwide. Osaka mayor Ichiro Matsui said on Thursday that male grocery buyers would reduce the potential spread of the virus as they would spend less time in stores.

“Women take longer to shop because they browse different products and assess which option is best,” Matsui told reporters at a coronavirus press conference in Osaka on Thursday.

“Men quickly grasp what they are told to buy so they do not linger in the supermarket – this avoids close contact with others,” added Matsui.

Women make up 51% of the Japanese population, according to World Bank data. But Japan is ranked 110th out of 149 countries in the World Economic Forum index measuring the level of gender equality.

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The mayor’s comments prompted popular Japanese journalist Shoko Egawa to Tweeter that “people who know nothing about everyday life should not comment”.
Egawa’s tweet gleaned from more than 3,000 retweets, with a social media user tweeting that Matsui probably had never done the shopping itself.

Japan remains a largely male-dominated society. The country is ranked 110th out of 149 countries in the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Gender Gap Index. The country also ranks last among G7 countries for gender equality, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s commitment to empower working women through a policy called “womenomics”.

Osaka has been in a state of emergency since April 7. Matsui’s comments come after he suggested that supermarkets limit the number of people entering stores when possible, and advised the public to shop only every two to three days.

Struggling to avoid a crisis

In recent weeks, Japan has hastened to contain a slight increase in cases of coronavirus.

The sharp increase prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to extend the state of emergency from seven prefectures across the country on April 17.

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Last week, a team of government experts warned that Japan could have more than 400,000 coronavirus-related deaths if measures such as social isolation were not taken. But most of the deaths, they warned, could result from a lack of fans.

This week, Japan has increased testing facilities in Tokyo and other prefectures. But experts say medical shortages combined with relatively low test rates and Japan’s lack of telework arrangements mean that tougher measures will have to be applied to reduce the number of cases.

Since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, politicians have suffered a huge fire for their handling of the crisis, with many health experts warning of Japan’s weak testing capabilities and slow government responses. As of mid-April, Japan had tested only 90,000 people, compared to more than 513,000 in South Korea, which has 51 million residents, compared to 127 million in Japan.


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