Japan has declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba to combat the enormous spike of Covid cases registered since December. The state of emergency will begin today, January 8, and will last until at least February 7.
Under the terms of the restrictions, bars and restaurants will close at 8pm and people will be asked to stay at home as much as possible. Cinemas, museums and other events will be asked to reduce attendance.
If the idea of asking people and venues to comply rather than compelling them seems strange, it’s a reflection of Japan’s culture of ‘voluntary compliance.’ Those who do not adhere to the new restrictions aren’t punished or fined, but only those who do follow the rules will be eligible for financial aid.
Travel Industry Hit Hardest
Like most other countries, the travel sector has been severely affected by the restrictions. The government has been forced to suspend its ‘Go To Travel’ tourism campaign until the end of the emergency, but it has guaranteed that anyone who made bookings or reservations under the terms of the campaign will be able to cancel them free of charge until January 7 and will pay 35 per cent of travel fees in compensation to hotels and other businesses hit by cancellations.
Olympics in Jeopardy
As we reported last week, the state of emergency puts the Olympics at greater risk of cancellation. The games are scheduled to take kick off on July 23, but a decision will have to be made much earlier as to their viability, especially as they will rely on many tens of thousands of international visitors – including thousands of competing athletes – being able to arrive and be safe while in country. Although the Japanese government and the IOC remain committed to hosting the games, Canadian IOC member Richard Pound told the BBC, “I can’t be certain because the ongoing elephant in the room would be the surges in the virus.” Pound also said that competing athletes should be near the top of the list when it comes to being vaccinated, and also suggested that organisers should make being vaccinated a condition of entry into the country.