30% of Tokyo’s Foreign Residents Experienced Discrimination During Pandemic

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The cityscape of Tokyo

About 30% of foreign residents in Tokyo experienced discrimination in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by the Tokyo metropolitan government.

The survey revealed some of the hardships non-Japanese residents living in the capital went through during the pandemic. Among other things, more than 40% of respondents who visited a hospital when they thought they might have the coronavirus said they had “not been able to communicate well” with reception staff.

The metropolitan government conducted the online survey between June 1 and 21. The findings reflect valid responses given by 2,000 residents in their 20s to 70s who were selected to match the breakdown of nationalities in proportion to the actual population.

Asked whether they had experienced discrimination in connection with COVID-19, 30.5% of respondents said yes. This was significantly higher than the 4.2% of respondents who gave the same answer in a similar survey conducted on all Tokyoites in February.

The most common form of discrimination reported was “being treated as if foreigners were to blame for the virus spreading” (50.7%), while 37% said they were “unable to receive clear explanations at hospitals and other locations due to being a foreigner” and 33.8% said other people “assumed I was not taking precautions to stop the virus from spreading.” Respondents could give more than one answer.

In addition, 44.2% of respondents had visited a hospital when they suspected they had contracted the virus. Among problems encountered there, 42.5% said they had “not been able to communicate well” with reception staff, and 31.7% said they did not know if insurance would cover their treatment costs.

According to the survey, 31% had been unsure which hospital to go to.

Regarding how the pandemic affected their life, 50.6% of respondents said they “could not return to my home country because of tighter border controls” and 32.7% said their job income or classes “had decreased or stopped.”

Among respondents, 79.4% said they were making efforts to wear a mask as of February. The Tokyo government believes that a high proportion of non-Japanese residents actively took steps to prevent COVID-19 infections from spreading.

“Our non-Japanese residents got through the coronavirus pandemic together” with other residents, a metropolitan government official said. “We’ll push ahead with policies that enable everybody, regardless of nationality, to live a comfortable life with peace of mind.”