Japan gov’t calls for longer New Year holiday to curb virus spread

Oct 23, 2020 – 22:06 KYODO NEWS

TOKYO – The Japanese government will ask companies to extend the upcoming New Year holiday by about one week in a bid to mitigate crowding by people visiting relatives or going on vacation and lower the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus, a Cabinet member said Friday.

Under the plan, announced by Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of the government’s coronavirus response, companies that would usually go back to work on Jan. 4 will be asked to wait until Jan. 12, a day after Coming-of-Age Day.

The New Year holiday is one of the busiest seasons for travel in Japan as trains, planes and highways become packed with people returning to their hometowns to see family and friends or taking the opportunity to go on vacation.

People also form long lines for “hatsumode,” the first Shinto shrine visit of the year.

Nishimura said the request would be sent out through organizations such as the Japan Business Federation, also known as Keidanren, and that local municipalities will also be asked to cooperate with the extension plan, which was discussed at a government subcommittee meeting on Friday.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s minister in charge of revitalizing the economy, speaks at a coronavirus task force meeting in Tokyo on Oct. 23, 2020. The government plans to ask companies to extend the upcoming New Year holiday by about one week to lower the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The subcommittee also looked at possible countermeasures for Halloween, with some members saying eating and drinking on the street should be avoided. Tokyo’s Shibuya district, which usually draws swarms of costumed partygoers at night, has asked people not to come out this year due to concerns about COVID-19.

There have been over 95,000 confirmed cases in Japan, including about 700 from a cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama in February, with a little over 1,700 deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

While the country has passed the peak of new coronavirus cases, experts advising the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare warned Thursday that the number of infections is starting to trend slightly upward again.

The subcommittee also discussed ways to allow spectators to attend sports events while avoiding the three Cs — closed spaces, crowded and close-contact settings — with a scheduled trial at Yokohama Stadium from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1 for professional baseball games to be followed by a second one at Tokyo Dome from Nov. 7 to Nov. 8.

CR:KYODO NEWS