A screenshot shows the website of the Tsunagu project, which offers essential workers who face an increased risk of COVID-19 infection free transportation and accommodation.

A travel website operator in Okinawa Prefecture is offering health care professionals and other essential workers at the greatest risk of COVID-19 infection free transportation and accommodation, aiming to ease their fears of public or family transmission.

The project targets medical personnel, nursery staff, caregivers, drivers of public transportation and parcel delivery services, and supermarket clerks, all of whom have contact with various people in their daily work. Many workers in these occupations are facing difficulty in their daily lives, refraining from going home and avoiding public transport for fear that they might infect their family members and customers. Some health care professionals are resorting to sleeping in their cars and opting to stay away from their families.

The Tsunagu (connect in Japanese) project matches essential workers with hotels and rental car businesses. It receives requests through a dedicated page on Okiraku, an Okinawa portal website, and reserves a rental car or accommodation for the applicants. About 70 rooms from two hotels in Naha and one each in the city of Ginowan and the town of Kadena are available for the project. Vehicles from major rental car firms are also available.

The project invites donations from the public, and part of the money will be used to distribute masks and other materials to partner hotels and rental car businesses as protection against infection.

SEEC Inc., which operates the Okiraku site, contributed ¥2 million in initial funding for the project. The money is paid to the participating businesses, which have been suffering from reduced tourist traffic during the pandemic.

The company is aiming to establish a system to continue assisting essential workers in their daily lives.

“The new coronavirus is settling down here now but it’s believed to be a long battle. We plan to carry on with the project to keep supporting the workers,” said Hisao Matsukawa, who heads the travel business department at SEEC.

Applications and donations can be made at https://oki-raku.net/tsunagu.

This section features topics and issues from Okinawa covered by The Okinawa Times, a major newspaper in the prefecture. The original article was published May 14.

【和訳】 

医療従事者らに車両提供
「沖楽」と観光業者 宿泊所も無償

 沖縄に特化した旅行ポータルサイト「沖楽」は、新型コロナウイルスが流行する中、医療関係者らエッセンシャルワーカーの不安軽減や生活支援を目的に「TSUNAGU(つなぐ)」プロジェクトを始めている。連携するホテルやレンタカー事業者と協力し、宿泊施設や交通手段を無償で提供する。

 「沖楽」サイトの「TSUNAGU」から、支援希望者の申し込みを受け、宿泊施設やレンタカーをあっせんする。ホテルは那覇に2施設、宜野湾と嘉手納に1施設ずつあり、約70室が利用可能。レンタカーは主要会社の車両が使える。

 対象は、医療関係者や保育・介護士、公共交通の運転手、宅配便の宅配員、スーパー店員など、日ごろの業務で不特定多数との接触が避けられない人たち。これらの職種では、家族や顧客らへの感染を恐れ、帰宅や公共交通での移動を避けるなど、不安、不便な生活を強いられているという。

 プロジェクトは当初、沖楽側が200万円を拠出してスタート。ホテルやレンタカー側に支払われ、観光客の激減でダメージを受ける事業者の支援ともなる。今後は一般からの寄付も呼び掛け、エッセンシャルワーカーや生活を支える仕組みの一つとしたい考え。

 沖楽を運営するSEEC社旅行事業部の松川尚生部長は「新型コロナは今は落ち着きつつあるが、長期戦といわれる。継続支援していくためプロジェクトを進めたい」と話した。

 利用申し込みや寄付などプロジェクトのURLは、https://oki‐raku.net/tsunagu

(写図説明)TSUNAGUプロジェクトの仕組み