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COVID-19: Japanese launch multilingual support website

06:43 | 02/06/2020

Students and alumni of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies have launched a website in 13 languages (Vietnamese included) to help foreigners in Japan stay abreast of information on COVID-19 pandemic, reported Kyodo News on May 31.

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covid 19 japanese launch multilingual support website
A website in 13 languages to help foreigners in Japan stay abreast of information on the coronavirus pandemic. Supplied photo/Kyodo

A team of some 70 volunteers translates information released by the central government and local authorities in the Tokyo metropolitan region, as well as coronavirus news coverage by Japanese media. The website is https://covid19-tagengo.com/.

The 13 languages are Japanese, English, simplified and traditional Chinese, Korean, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Indonesian.

According to the Japanese Immigration Bureau, the total number of foreigners in Japan amounted to 2.93 million as of late December 2019, up 202,000 from the same period in 2018, marking an increase of about 7.4 percent.

The Chinese was the largest community with over 813,600, followed by the Republic of Korea with more than 446,300 and Vietnamese with almost 412,000.

The number of foreigners living in Japan as apprentices was nearly 411,000, up 25.2 percent year-on-year, surpassing the number of foreign students for the first time.

The project team members hope the website will help ease the anxiety of foreign residents and be a step toward building a more inclusive society.

"It is really stressful for them not to be able to get sufficient information vital to their lives and daily living," said project team member Toru Ishii, 24, a student majoring in French before his graduation in March.

He recalled being asked for advice by a friend from overseas who faced student visa problems as the virus that causes the COVID-19 spread.

"I came to realize that governments only have limited manpower" to disseminate necessary information, Ishii said.

He and his friends launched the website on April 21 to deliver crucial information including basic hygiene tips to avoid infection and explanations of immigration issues, available financial assistance, and support resources.

"Just operating this website is not our goal. We'd like to help build a society which pays attention to foreigners especially in an emergency like this," Ishii said, expressing his belief that the epidemic has shed light on the failure of Japanese society to provide enough support to minority residents.

More than 235,000 Vietnamese workers in Japan have been on furlough due to the COVID-19 pandemic, VOV reported in May.

The Japanese Ministry of Justice has announced supportive policies for foreign workers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Tran Thi Van Ha from the Vietnamese Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs’ Overseas Workers Management Department said workers and practitioners could file an application to ask for support.

“Japan has initiated the job transformation policy where workers on furlough could ask for job opportunities in other professions by filing applications. This will help Vietnamese workers to start a new career with the same wages as local workers receive currently,” she said.

As for citizens in exceptional circumstances who need to travel home urgently, the Foreign Ministry, in compliance with the Prime Minister’s directions, will coordinate with the Ministries of Health, Transport, and National Defence as well as domestic airlines to arrange more flights to bring Vietnamese citizens in disadvantaged backgrounds home amid the COVID-19 pandemic based on the domestic epidemic situation and quarantine capacity.

A Vietnam Airline's flight on May 25 brought home over 300 Vietnamese citizens from Japan.

The latest flight comes after two additional departures had taken place on April 12 and April 23 with the country striving to repatriate hundreds of Vietnamese citizens who have been left stranded in Japan due to the fallout from the COVID-19.

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