Coronavirus triggers wave of event cancellations

The annual Tokyo Marathon usually sees more than 30,000 runners and hundreds of thousands of spectators take to the streets of Japan's capital. Next month, the 2020 marathon will look very different. Organizers say the announcement of new coronavirus cases in Japan has persuaded them to restrict the race to only the elite runners.

The marathon is just one of many events being scaled down or canceled because of the virus. Officials at human-resources firm Recruit Career have pulled the plug on job fairs scheduled for next month in 44 prefectures. Recruit says it was expecting around 5,000 companies and 50,000 students to take part.

About 600 companies joined a job fair at the Makuhari Messe hall in Chiba last year.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party was due to hold its convention on March 8th in Tokyo with more than 3,000 people taking part, including members of the Diet. But party leaders decided to reschedule.

The opposition Nippon Ishin Japan Innovation Party has decided to cancel its convention. That was scheduled for March 22 in Osaka. Party leader Ichiro Matsui says he hopes the situation will improve, but the future is uncertain.

Japan's health minister, Katsunobu Kato, says this is a crucial moment for containing the virus and he is asking event organizers to consider whether it is essential to proceed, and if they do, to take protective measures such as providing disinfectant and requiring people to wash their hands. He also called on people with symptoms to refrain from participating in events.

Katsunobu Kato, Japan's health minister, is asking organizers to assess whether their events are necessary.

How to limit the spread

Tsukuba University Professor Setsuya Kurahashi has simulated the spread of the new coronavirus using artificial intelligence.

His model predicts that if no measures are taken, 4.4 percent of the population will be hospitalized.

Adjusting work hours so commuters can avoid peak rush hours would cut the rate by 5 percent. Allowing having half a company's employees to work from home would slash it by 15 percent. And requiring people to wash their hands would reduce the hospitalization rate by 11 percent.

If all those measures are taken together, and people are urged to avoid crowds, the hospitalization rate is projected to fall by nearly two thirds.

Professor Kurahashi says individual measures can only have a limited impact, but if people do everything they can to address the risks, the effect is much more dramatic.