Tue, November 30, 2021


Tokyoites brace for another bout of self-restraint

A resurgence of the novel coronavirus, just two weeks after the last state of emergency expired, has shown that Japan is not quite out of the woods yet. As Tokyo joined the growing list of prefectures to request emergency-level priority measures, a collective sigh of resignation was heard from lockdown-fatigued restaurants and university students whose lives will be thrust back into uncertainty.

■ Flow of people

“We need to remain on high alert against an increase in the number of infections,” said Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike at a coronavirus monitoring meeting held on Thursday. “Considering the nature of variants, medical supplies could become tight.”

An uptick in new infections was seen in Tokyo even before the state of emergency ended on March 21. On Wednesday, 555 new infections were confirmed in the capital, exceeding the 500 mark for the first time in about two months.

“What is important is how we go about controlling the flow of people,” Koike said after the meeting.

The Tokyo metropolitan government has urged Tokyoites to refrain from traveling outside the capital, particularly to other big cities where the variants have spread. Universities have also been asked to conduct lectures online as their new freshman class descends upon the city from across Japan.

“We have requested the central government to consider further measures, including a state of emergency, depending on the situation,” Koike added.


■ Preparation

Under the priority measures, Tokyo restaurants and bars will be asked to move up their business hours from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. and do more to prevent transmission of the virus.

“I’m nothing but anxious,” said the manager of Flora Box 85, a Spanish bar near Shibuya Station.

After the second state of emergency ended in late March, the bar installed CO2 sensors in two locations on its premises. Distributed for free by the Shibuya ward office and other agencies, the sensors can help gauge how crowded a venue is and alert operators to the need for ventilation. A CO2 concentration of 1,000 ppm or less is considered optimal for an occupied room.

“Now that we can visually keep tabs on our air quality, we’ve been ventilating more often,” the manager said.

Even so, the coronavirus has dealt his business a hard blow. During the state of emergency, the bar shortened its hours to 8 p.m. as requested by the government. When the state of emergency ended, it was able to keep its door open until 9 p.m. But its customers never came back. “I’ve kept the business afloat by taking out loans and applying for subsidies, but I don’t know what is going to happen if this keeps up much longer,” said the manager.


■ Lonely students

University students have also voiced concern as they start a new and uncommonly uncertain chapter in their lives, oftentimes far away from home.

“I knew college life would be different [amid the pandemic] from what I had imagined, but my anxiety just keeps getting worse,” said an 18-year-old student who moved from Osaka Prefecture to attend a private university in Tokyo.

A school guidance session remains the only opportunity she has had to meet any classmates.

“I planned on making more friends, but then classes went online and club activities were cancelled,” she said. “I still haven’t made any close friends I can talk to.”

“I finally made a friend, but now we can’t even meet up in person,” said a 19-year-old student who commutes to university in Tokyo from her home in Urawa Ward, Saitama. "It's been pretty sad."

When school started last spring, all her classes were being conducted online. She had never set foot on campus until autumn, when she began to visit once a week, but now worries about catching the virus on the train during her commute.

In response to the renewed request for classes to once again be held online, she said, “I guess I’ll just spend time alone at home, as there’s nothing else we can do until the virus is contained.”

Published : April 10, 2021

By : The Japan News/ANN