[May 16, 2021]
The state of emergency under the Coronavirus Special Measures Law came into force across Hiroshima Prefecture today.
It comes after several days of new daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 exceeding 200 and increasing pressure on medical facilities. At a press conference yesterday, the head of the Hiroshima City Medical Association stressed the seriousness of the local situation, stating that the rate of weekly new infections in Hiroshima City, at over 70 per 100,000 of population, was worse than Tokyo and Osaka. He also said that more than half of the 23 care units for critical and semi-critical COVID-19 patients available at Hiroshima Shimin Hospital were now in use.
We noticed many local bars and restaurants posting notices to their social accounts telling customers that they would be closed until May 31. However, compliance among shopping centers, malls and, to a degree, Hiroshima’s pro sports teams seems a little lukewarm.
The State of Emergency Measures
The state of emergency much talked about over the past couple of days came into effect on May 16 in Hiroshima and Okayama Prefectures, as well as in Hokkaido. Business restrictions, in line with the coronavirus special measures law which was passed in February this year, which aim to reduce the spread of COVID-19 will be in place until May 31.
– Bars and restaurants which offer alcohol and karaoke are required to close May 16-31.
– Bars and restaurants which do not serve alcohol or are willing to suspend alcohol sales can open from 5am to 8pm.
These rules apply to businesses all across the prefecture and supersede the locally imposed restrictions that was placed on bars and restaurants in the Nagarekawa-Yagenbori nightlife district from May 12.
Businesses such as movie theaters and sports venues over 1000m square are also to reduce operation to to 5am to 8pm. Department stores, shopping centers and public bath facilities of similar size are also required to close on Saturdays and Sundays.
Events will be required to limit customers to 5000 or 50% of venue capacity from May 18.
Shopping centers and malls ask for time
Many shopping stores and malls were open in Hiroshima today (though some closed some departments early) claiming that although they wish to comply they did not have time to make the necessary preparations. Department stores Fukuya, Mitsukoshi were open as usual and SOGO closed at 7:30pm. In Okayama, however, Tenmaya and Takashimaya closed all departments except their food and daily goods sections.
Mitsukoshi has announced that it will close most departments on Saturday and Sundays from May 22. Weekday opening will be shortened by 30min, closing at 7pm instead of 7:30pm.
SOGO will close at 7:30pm, but is yet to make a decision on weekend opening.
Local company Izumi which operates the Yume Town shopping centers has announced that it will close departments other than food and daily necessity sections at 8pm.
AEON Mall Fuchu and Gion, The Outlets, Danbara Shopping Center will close all areas other than food sections at weekends from May 22 and close on weekdays at 8pm.
Measures come into force May 16, but places that need time to prepare must comply by midnight on May 19
Businesses that comply will receive financial support grants and those that don’t comply will be liable for fines.
Events, Hiroshima Carp and Sanfrecce
As events which have already sold their tickets are exempt from capacity restrictions, the permitted capacity at Hiroshima Carp’s sold out home games at Mazda Stadium will remain at 16,500. Sale of alcohol and the bringing of alcohol from outside was prohibited at today’s games. Food sales will also be stopped at 8pm at future games.
Capacity for Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s soccer match on May 26 has been reduced from 50% (17,500) to 5000 (a reflection of ticket sales, perhaps?) and bringing food and drink will be prohibited.
It has been widely reported that adherence to urgent calls to stay home in Kansai and Tokyo has been patchy at best as the population shows great “corona fatigue” with each bout of restrictions on business and movement.
Local authorities are asking people to do all they can to reduce person-to-person contact by at least 50%. Chugoku Shinbun reported that there seemed to be fewer people out in the center of Hiroshima today than on a usual Sunday, but the photo from Hondori that they published doesn’t exactly look empty. It is telling perhaps, that a woman in her 40s who they interviewed said that she and her friends would not be enjoying karaoke as usual, but she had still traveled to Kure to meet her friends.
In the same article the newspaper notes that alcohol sales at supermarkets etc were getting a boost from the state of emergency, but that it was not comparable with the rise in sales in spring 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic. There also appears to be no panic buying or hoarding to speak of.
As well as the call to reduce person-to-person contact, local authorities are also calling on companies to encourage remote working to drastically reduce the number of employees coming into their offices and workplaces. With workplace infections being one of the characteristics of the 4th wave, it will be interesting to see how many commuters are on the trains, buses and sidewalks this coming week.
Main source: Chugoku Shinbun