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Tokyo cancels plethora of public events in attempt to stem coronavirus’ spread

Tokyoites and tourists walk across the popular Shibuya Scramble intersection in central Tokyo in November 2019.

AARON KIDD/STARS AND STRIPES

By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND AYA ICHIHASHI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 21, 2020

Several events in Tokyo over the next three weeks are canceled, including an imperial birthday greeting, as cases of the new coronavirus multiply in Japan and public health officials scramble to contain the outbreak.

Gov. Yuriko Koike on Friday canceled government-sponsored events between Feb. 22 and March 15, a prefectural spokesman said. Koike’s order also applies to outdoor festivals such as food fairs.

However, Japanese school exams and graduations will take place as scheduled.

As of Friday, 25 people in Tokyo were diagnosed with the coronavirus, with three in critical condition, Koike said during a coronavirus countermeasures meeting.

“There are increasing numbers of cases that we cannot trace where and how the patients were infected,” she said. “The situation we are in is very critical. We must all have more of a sense of urgency to deal with the problem.”

Events and venues affected by concern for the virus spreading include:

  • A public birthday event for Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace was canceled, the Imperial Household Agency said.
  • Beyond Stadium 2020, scheduled for Monday at Komazawa Olympic Park, is also canceled. Expected to draw 20,000 people, the event is considered an important introduction to para-sports in the lead up to the 2020 Paralympic Games this summer in Tokyo.
  • The Hello Kitty-themed Sanrio Puroland park, which is about an hour for Yokota Air Base and Camp Zama, announced Friday it would close until March 12, according to its website. Its sister park in Oita prefecture will close as well.
  • The Tokyo Marathon Foundation on Monday barred amateur runners from the Tokyo Marathon on March 1.
  • One of Japan’s biggest cosplay events, Nipponbashi Street Festa 2020, scheduled March 15 in Osaka, was canceled Wednesday. It typically draws upwards of 200,000 people.

The cancellations follow news of Japan’s first coronavirus patient under age 10, announced in Hokkaido on Friday, the prefectural website said. Until now, most patients in Japan have been elderly. Hokkaido has reported eight coronavirus cases since Jan. 28.

As of Thursday, 84 people in Japan had tested positive for the virus and one person has died, Defense Minister Taro Kono said Friday in a post on Twitter. A dozen remain hospitalized, having tested positive for the highly contagious virus without exhibiting symptoms.

Passengers quarantined two weeks in Yokohama aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess were set to leave the vessel Friday, the Japan Times newspaper said. More than 620 of the 3,700 passengers and crew aboard the ship tested positive for the virus, the BBC reported Friday.

Last week, the State Department chartered two planes to bring American Diamond Princess passengers back to the United States where they are undergoing another 14-day quarantine at Travis Air Force Base in California and Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

Seven Diamond Princess passengers associated with U.S. Army Japan will quarantine at home in Japan for 14 days, U.S. Army Japan said Tuesday.

Coronavirus, known officially as COVID-19, appeared first in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December and has since spread globally. The World Health Organization has declared it a global health emergency.

Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, according to the World Health Organization. The infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death in severe cases.

burke.matt@stripes.com
Twitter: @MatthewMBurke1

ichihashi.aya@stripes.com
Twitter: @AyaIchihashi

 

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