Some self-quarantining residents feel like their death is being treated like a forgone conclusion.

Imagine you’re a person living in Osaka who’s tested positive for coronavirus. After talking the situation over with a doctor, you’re told that you’ll need to self-quarantine at home, and that you’ll be receiving a packet in the mail with more detailed instructions in a few days.

So you head home, and before long your information packet arrives…in an envelope with a large ad for funeral services on its backside.

“Osaka Municipal Funeral Hall – For questions about funeral services, call Koekisha CO., Ltd.,” reads the large-font text splashed across the top-left section of the ad. The company’s free consultation services promise to explain pricing and options to give clients a concrete image of what kind of funeral the company can provide.

In different circumstances, that’d all be nice to know. When it’s plastered on an envelope being sent to someone with a difficult-to-cure and potentially deadly disease, though, an ad for funeral services starts to feel like a proclamation that your impending death is a certainty, and it’s time to make arrangements for disposing of your corpse. Alternatively, it could be seen as a stern warning that if you’re not going to follow the packet’s instructions, you’re pretty much signing your own death warrant.

“All my energy drained away,” says one Osaka resident who received the packet/envelope combination, “and I felt so hopeless. It was like my very existence was being denied, and every time I think about it, I start to cry. This kind of carelessness can be a source of psychological distress for people who are infected.” Other recipients have also lodged complaints about the envelopes, and some have pointed out that the 567 sequence in the center of the ad’s phone number can be read as “corona” (by altering 5, ordinarily go, to ko and taking the first syllables of 6/roku and 7/nana).

However, it’s neither misguided helpfulness nor grim intimidation that’s to blame for the envelopes, which were mailed by a ward health office in Osaka. Back in 2006, the city began selling ad space on the back of its envelopes as part of a fundraising initiative, and it’s simply an unfortunate coincidence that the envelopes distributed to the health offices had the funeral service company’s ad on them. No deliberate choice was made to connect correspondence with coronavirus carriers and the funeral ads. “We used the only envelopes we had available at the time, without being conscious of the potential problem,” explained a spokesperson for the health office,” and a spokesperson for Osaka City’s accounting division said “While we did not purposely put the information packets for coronavirus carriers into envelopes with funeral service ads on them, we did not show proper consideration.” Likewise, Koekisha has been using the 567-inclusive phone number for more than 10 years, so it dates back to long before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s surprising that no one had the wherewithal to funnel the funeral service envelopes to other city departments, whose correspondence doesn’t deal with matters of life and death, in the first place, but at least the health office is now in the process of obtaining new envelopes without the funeral service ads.

Source: Asahi Shimbun Digital via Livedoor News via Jin
Top image: Wikipedia/MakotoArakawa
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