Mask Japan hospital
A man wearing a mask and a colourful attire to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus walks in the Shinjuku Ward in Tokyo Friday evening, April 24, 2020. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded a state of emergency to all of Japan from just Tokyo and other urban areas as the virus continues to spread. Image Credit: AP

Tokyo: The mayor of the western Japanese city Osaka came under fire on social media on Friday after saying women take longer than men shopping for groceries as he tried to promote social distancing to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the city.

By Friday morning there were nearly 1,500 coronavirus cases in Osaka and the prefecture that surrounds it, making it the second hardest-hit after Tokyo, national broadcaster NHK said.

Japan’s government has declared a nationwide state of emergency at least through May 6 in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

In Osaka, Mayor Ichiro Matsui has been appealing to people to take steps to reduce the risk of virus infections, but his remarks over gender shopping behaviour stirred controversy.

“When a woman goes... it will take time,” Matsui said when asked by a male reporter about possibly reducing shoppers’ entry to supermarkets to lower the risk of coronavirus infections.

“If it was you, if you were told to get this or that, then you would go directly... and go home,” he said. “It’s also fine for men to go shopping while avoiding contact.”

Married couples ‘should avoid going shopping together’

Matsui, who also said married couples should avoid going shopping together, drew criticism on Japanese Twitter over his remarks, with users saying they were sexist.

“Japan is a country where these words come calmly out of a mayor’s mouth. Deplorable,” said one user on Friday.

Another user said the remark showed politicians don’t think enough about what parenting, household work and nursing involve.

“When I hear remarks like this... I feel the need for people with diverse backgrounds to participate in politics,” the user said.

Matsui actually got things the wrong way around, another user said, saying women needed less time than men when going out shopping.

“Women are deciding more quickly when shopping,” the user said, adding he took longer to find the right aisles for items he needed.

Matsui on Thursday also said people should limit how often the go to the supermarket to shop, suggesting people born in months with an even number should only go on even dates, and those with uneven numbered months should go on uneven dates.