What to be careful of when visiting shrines and temples at New Year's

This is part 58 of our coronavirus FAQ. Click here to read other installments: #Coronavirus the facts. Find the latest information and answers from experts on everything COVID-19.

Expert panel discussed measures

In Japan, many people visit shrines and temples during the holidays to pray for good luck in the coming year. A government panel on the coronavirus discussed the issue on November 12, when the Cabinet Secretariat presented a document based on expert recommendations.

Take basic preventive measures and avoid congestion

The document calls for visitors to thoroughly take basic infection-prevention measures, such as wearing masks and disinfecting hands. It also says steps should be taken to let people know shrines' and temples' congestion status and to urge them to stagger their visits. It says staff should ensure social distancing is maintained and visitors should refrain from eating and drinking and should not speak loudly.

Be cautious before and after visits

Also, to avoid the "Three Cs" -- closed spaces, crowding, and close contact -- before and after visiting shrines and temples, the document also calls for measures to disperse visitors across more than one train station.

At a news conference, the head of the panel, Omi Shigeru, said there is no major infection risk in quietly worshipping outdoors at shrines and temples. He said people should be aware that getting together with friends and relatives before or after visits to talk, eat or drink presents a higher risk. He also asked that people make their New Year's visits on January 4 or later to disperse congestion.

This information is accurate as of Nov. 24, 2020.