Tokyo nightlife sparks uptick in cases

Officials in Tokyo have confirmed nearly 50 coronavirus infections for two consecutive days. They have traced many of the cases to entertainment establishments and are now urging businesses in the city’s nightlife districts to implement preventive measures.

“Result of aggressive testing”

47 people in Tokyo tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, marking the first day in six weeks with more than 40 new cases. Of these, 32 were traced to nightlife establishments. On Monday, 48 new cases were recorded, with 23 linked to nightlife establishments.

Governor Koike Yuriko has tried to allay concerns of a resurgence, saying the rising numbers are the result of aggressive testing. “We are implementing tests to prevent the spread of infection,” she said.

Hamada Atsuo of the Tokyo Medical University Hospital says the fact that most of the recent cases are traceable is evidence that there is limited community transmission. But he stresses that it is too early to get complacent.

“It was just last week that the Tokyo government lifted its coronavirus alert and eased business restrictions,” he says. “We need to keep an eye on the figures until the end of this month.”

Preventive measures for nightlife districts

The government is now focusing its efforts on the city’s nightlife districts. On Saturday, officials announced preventive guidelines for live music venues, host and hostess bars, and night clubs.

These establishments are now required to enforce physical distancing of 1-2 meters between every person, install acrylic boards at tables and counters, and advise all employees and customers to wear face masks or shields. Additionally, the government urges such venues to maintain a list of customers so they can be contacted and traced in the event of an infection.

Officials are also recommending that host and hostess bars prohibit employees from dancing or singing karaoke alongside guests. And nightclubs have been requested to play music at lower than usual volumes so patrons don’t have to speak loudly, which would risk the spread of droplets.

Live music venues have been asked to implement physical distancing of two meters between performers and attendees. They have also been recommended to conduct all ticketing online and through cashless methods.

Relaxed restrictions

Economic activity has been gradually restarting in the three weeks since the government lifted the nationwide state of emergency. On Friday, measures will be relaxed even further. All restrictions on inter-prefectural travel will be lifted, while the capacity at concerts and other events will be increased. Professional sporting events will be allowed to open without spectators.

And despite the recent uptick in cases at similar establishments, bars and live music venues will be allowed to resume operations.

“We don’t intent to make any changes to our plan at this point,” said Nishimura Yasutoshi, the minister in charge of the national coronavirus response, on Monday. “But we will continue to closely monitor the situation and consult experts on how to move forward.”