Japan eyes easing virus rule to allow more people at events

Sep 08 , 2020. 2 hours ago – 07:41 KYODO NEWS

File photo shows a baseball game between the Orix Buffaloes and the Rakuten Eagles being played behind closed doors at Kyocera Dome in June 2020. (Kyodo)

TOKYO – Japan plans to relax a rule limiting the size of crowds at professional sports, concerts and other events later this month amid signs that coronavirus cases are decreasing nationwide, government sources said.

Under the current rule, venues are allowed to hold up to 50 percent of their capacity or up to a total of 5,000 people. The government is considering scrapping the 5,000-person cap as early as Sept. 19, the sources said.

The plan will be discussed when a panel of health experts meet on Friday.

The relaxation of the rule comes as part of government efforts to revive the pandemic-hit economy. The move would coincide with a four-day weekend in Japan starting Sept. 19.

Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said last month the government might relax the restriction before the end of September if the daily number of new infections substantially decreases.

Event operators and spectators will be required to take thorough measures to prevent both the resurgence of the virus and spread of seasonal influenza, said the sources.

Nippon Professional Baseball and the J-League, Japan’s professional soccer league, plan to jointly submit their request to ease the spectator cap to the government on Tuesday.

The government initially planned to ease the limit on Aug. 1. But it was later extended to the end of August and then to the end of this month as the country struggled to contain the virus.

At Friday’s meeting, the health experts may also discuss whether the government can add trips to and from Tokyo to its travel subsidy campaign, according to the sources.

Such trips have been excluded from the controversial “Go To Travel” campaign, launched in July to revive the domestic tourism industry, as the capital has seen much higher numbers of daily infections than other prefectures.