An empty street in Tokyo’s Ginza area on March 15, 2020 as people stay home during the covid-19 pandemic
An empty street in Tokyo’s Ginza area on March 15, 2020 as people stay home during the covid-19 pandemic
Photo: Getty Images

A 57-year-old man in Japan who contracted the new coronavirus and threatened to intentionally spread it in public spaces has died, according to multiple news reports from Japan. The infected man, who told family he was going to “spread the virus” by visiting bars in central Japan, died in a hospital on Wednesday.

The unnamed man tested positive for covid-19 in the Japanese city of Gamagori on March 4, and went out to two bars that night, despite a warning from local health authorities that he should stay home, according to Kyodo News. A woman in her 30s who worked at one of the bars tested positive for the virus on March 12.

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The man took a taxi and spent roughly 15 minutes at the first bar he visited on March 4 and 40 minutes at the second bar. The second bar, a Filipino pub, is where the man intentionally made contact with a woman by putting his arm around her, according to Kyodo News. The man also sang karaoke that night.

The unnamed man was reportedly asymptomatic when he went out drinking and was only tested for covid-19 because his elderly parents had been infected with the disease. Why was the man sent home instead of being hospitalized on March 4? The local infectious disease ward in Aichi Prefecture was reportedly full and he was told to go home to self-isolate. Aichi has the second highest number of covid-19 cases in Japan with 125, according to the Strait Times.

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The Filipino pub immediately reported the man’s presence to local health authorities after he confided in an employee that he’d tested positive for covid-19, and the bar was shut down for a thorough cleaning. The man was reportedly hospitalized on March 5 after his night out and died today.

Japan has seen multiple reports of people exhibiting anti-social behavior during the global pandemic, including one 44-year-old man who was arrested last week for pretending to have the disease and coughing near other people. A 54-year-old man in the Japanese city of Kiryu was also arrested on Monday after he threatened people on a train and told them he had covid-19. It turns out he was just drunk.

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Japan is only conducting an average of 1,190 tests for covid-19 per day, roughly a sixth of the nation’s capacity, according to a new report from the Japan Times. And while that’s much more testing than the U.S. has been conducting, it’s likely hiding the true extent of the disease in Japan. The country currently has 882 confirmed cases of covid-19 and 29 deaths, not including cases from the Diamond Princess cruise that was formerly docked in Yokohama.

The U.S. currently has 6,496 cases of covid-19 and 114 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online coronavirus tracker. At least 27 of those deaths are tied to a single nursing home outside of Seattle, as of Saturday. Japan, with the oldest population in the world, faces tough days and weeks ahead as it attempts to get a handle on a disease that disproportionally kills the elderly.

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Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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