Rats swarm through deserted streets of Japan with inhabitants locked in by coronavirus

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TOKYO, Apr 28 (Reuters) – With many restaurants closed and much of the population at home during Japan’s state of emergency to combat the coronavirus, some experts say the rats may be expanding their search for food to the deserted streets that before people walked.

In Tokyo’s Kabukicho district, known for its nightlife, many bars and adult entertainment venues have closed, and rats could be seen in the empty streets at night.

A similar scene was broadcast on NHK public broadcaster Monday, showing dozens of rats on a deserted street, running between buildings and feeding on trash in an entertainment district in the southwestern city of Kitakyushu.

“The restaurants are closed and the garbage they used to eat is gone, so they are looking for food,” said the officer of the Rat Extermination Association Tsutomu Tanikawa.

“There are fewer people, and when rats are hungry, they become less cautious with humans,” he said. “It is not the only problem in Japan, it is happening all over the world.”

Japan does not have mandatory containment measures like other countries, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency for seven prefectures, including Tokyo on April 7, giving governors the authority to order the closure of commercial activity and that the population stay home. Now the measure has been extended to the entire country.

Takao Koezuka, public health representative for the city of Kitakyushu, said that so far there has been no increase in complaints about rats in the city.

“We have to investigate further to understand the situation,” said Koezuka.

Rats can be carriers of disease. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in the spread of the coronavirus.

Concerns about rat infestations in Japan garnered media attention before the Tsukiji business sector in Tokyo, the world’s oldest fish market and a major tourist attraction, closed in October 2018.

The cessation of market activity prompted predictions that hordes of rodents would flee, even to the luxurious Ginza shopping area. In response, merchants and authorities carried out a huge extermination operation.

(Reported by Linda Sieg. Edited in Spanish by Marion Giraldo and Michael Susin)

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