April 25, 2020 / 1:02 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Japan economy minister cancels appearances as precaution against coronavirus

(Adds Nishimura comments from TV appearance in paragraphs 6-7, ‘Stay Home Week’ in paragraph 8)

TOKYO, April 25 (Reuters) - A key government official in charge of Japan’s economic response to the coronavirus outbreak called off his public appearances on Saturday to work from home after it was discovered that he had been in contact with a member of staff who tested for the coronavirus.

The Cabinet Office said that Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura had cancelled a media briefing scheduled for 0500 GMT and would not attend a separate meeting later in the day.

In a statement, the office said that it had discovered that Nishimura had visited a university hospital last week with an office staff member who later tested positive for the virus.

In past weeks, the minister has become the face of Japan’s economic efforts to deal with the coronavirus.

“Neither the minister nor the staffer who tested positive for the virus has shown any symptoms, but as a precaution, the minister will remain at home until he receives further notice on his condition from health authorities,” the office said in a statement.

Nishimura later on Saturday made a scheduled appearance on public broadcaster NHK remotely, rather than in person, saying he had not been in close contact with the staff member and was working from home just as a precaution.

“Anyone is at risk of getting infected, so I would like to ask people to avoid going out as much as possible and stay home during Golden Week,” he said.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has renamed the holiday this year “Stay Home Week” and called on people to confine themselves for a 12-day period beginning Saturday to curb the spread of the virus.

On Saturday, the number of coronavirus infections in Japan had reached more than 13,000 cases with 351 deaths, NHK said. (Reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto, Naomi Tajitsu and Chris Gallagher; Editing by Kim Coghill and Louise Heavens)

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