Tokyo may be one step closer to a lockdown following the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision on Monday to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The news of postponement comes as only a mild surprise. Australia and Canada had already announced they would not be sending their athletes to compete, and with the rate of COVID-19 cases continuing to rise globally, Prime Minister Abe was forced to seriously evaluate whether it would be safe to continue as planned.
— New Straits Times (@NST_Online) March 24, 2020
According to the World Health Organization’s director, General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the COVID-19 crisis is accelerating globally. Cases have now been reported in almost every country in the world and governments have been urging people to stay home unless absolutely necessary.
While people around the world adjust to strict social distancing measures to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, Japan has remained relatively calm, eschewing official “shelter-in-place” restrictions like those in the U.S., Italy and other impacted countries. In the past few days alone, thousands of people have gathered in famous parks to enjoy the annual hanami (cherry blossom viewing) ritual, sparking criticism and confusion in the online community.
Although the Meguro River Cherry Blossom Festival was officially canceled this year due to COVID-19, thousands of people have visited over this long weekend… ??#meguro #CherryBlossoms #coronavirus #SocialDistancingNow #tokyo #japan #さくら pic.twitter.com/ykCvE27mKL
— obsessedwithjapan (@obsessedwithjap) March 22, 2020
As of March 23, the total number of cases in Japan reached 1,089, including 41 deaths, according to figures provided by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. In Europe alone, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, the Republic of Ireland and the UK have gone into lockdown, as opposed to “shelter-in-place” status. Other countries across the world are likely to soon follow suit.
In light of increasing cases worldwide, experts are wondering how one of the first countries outside of China affected by the coronavirus now ranks as one of the least-affected. Some have attributed Japan’s relatively low case rate to its culture of cleanliness, wherein children are taught from a young age to consistently wash their hands, and wearing masks is a fact of life even outside of flu season.
Others speculate that the Japanese government is trying to hide the real numbers of COVID-19 cases, a theory underpinned by the fact that Japan has not conducted extensive coronavirus testing compared to countries like South Korea and Italy.
— The Japan News (@The_Japan_News) March 24, 2020
As people in Japan await further official action, the effect that the 2020 Olympic Games postponement will have in terms of Japan’s economy is still unclear. The country was forecasted to spend around $25 million in preparations for the Games, but private economists now estimate that Japan must now brace itself for the possibility of economic losses reaching $6 billion.
On a personal level, thousands of athletes must come to terms with the reality of not competing in July and August. Canadian women’s hockey player and four-time gold Olympic champion, Hayley Wickenheiser empathized with Olympians of all sports via Twitter, but highlighted “this crisis is bigger than even the Olympics.”
English updates on COVID-19 in Tokyo from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Tips on how to deal with the virus
Read our article on the current outbreak and how to plan for the months ahead.
Other event cancellations
Check our updated list of event cancellations, postponements and temporarily closed venues across Tokyo.