Companies Brace for New COVID-19 State of Emergency in Tokyo Area
posted on by Rafael Antonio Pineda
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced on Tuesday that the national government will formally decide on Thursday on the requests for a declaration of a state of emergency in Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba. The declaration would be in response to the high rate of new infections of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and would be in place from Friday, January 8 to Sunday, February 7. Some companies have already pushed back or delayed events in anticipation of such a declaration.
• Sailor Moon cast members Kotono Mitsuishi and Misato Fukuen had planned to appear at a Saturday screening of the first film in the two-part Bishōjo Senshi Sailor Moon Eternal (Pretty Guardians Sailor Moon Eternal The MOVIE) anime film project, but their appearances have been canceled. Instead. the cast members' talk show segment is now slated to stream online. The first film will still open on Friday, as previously scheduled.
• The official website for the Yu-Gi-Oh! Official Card Game (the regional name for what is known as the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game in the West) announced on Monday that it will temporarily put events on hold beginning on Tuesday.
• The organizers of GG Eiga Sai (Golden Generation Film Festival), a screening series dedicated to director Mamoru Oshii, has delayed the event until further notice. The festival would have traveled between five cities from January 9 to February 7.
• The local governments have already asked events to limit attendance to under 5,000 people since late December. The prefectures are now considering lowering the attendance limit on events to 1,000 people, but possibly retaining the previous limit of 5,000 for soccer, track and field, and other sports events that have not been shown to spread COVID-19.
• The prefectures are also considering asking movie theaters and amusement parks to limit attendance to 50% of their capacity. TOHO, Aeon, United, and Shochiku — four of Japan's largest theaters chains — announced on Tuesday that they will halt advance ticket sales for screenings on Friday and beyond in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures. People can now only buy tickets at the affected theaters on the day of the screening, if the theaters are open. (Some special screenings are excluded.) The Cinema Sunshine theater chain already announced on Saturday similar restrictions on advance ticket sales.
• The Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea parks will close one hour earlier at 8:00 p.m. everyday from January 8 until the end of the month. Monday is Japan's Coming of Age Day, which celebrates all those who turned 20. The Ghibli Museum and Tokyo Disneyland had planned to host ceremonies for local residents on that day, but they are either canceling or delaying the events. (The Ghibli Museum has been otherwise closed since November for maintenance.)
Unlike the previous state of emergency last spring, the national government indicated that schools will not be subject to additional restrictions (beyond voluntary self-restraint measures). However, the prefectures have already planned to ask residents to refrain from nonessential outings after 8:00 p.m. They are also planning to ask establishments that serve alcohol to close before 8:00 p.m. every night from January 8 to January 31, and restaurants that do not serve alcohol to close before 8:00 p.m. every night from January 11 to January 31.
The prefectural governors had requested that the central government declare a state of emergency on January 2, after Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures had record high rates of new daily infections throughout December and the first days of the new year.
If declared, this would be the second time these prefectures will be under a state of emergency during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, after an almost two-month-long nationwide state of emergency from early April to late May last year. Unlike the lockdowns in other countries, last spring's state of emergency in Japan relied on voluntary compliance to rules instead of penalties. Suga said he will push an amendment to the current laws to allow for penalties.
Japan reported 6,001 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, a record daily number. Tokyo alone reported at least 1,591 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, another record daily number. Tokyo also reported a record 113 people who are seriously ill with COVID-19. A new, more contagious variant (that was first reported in the United Kingdom) of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been identified in 25 people in Japan.