While easing restrictions, take effective measures to bring back normality

While continuing to take appropriate steps to prevent further infections, daily life needs to return to normal. It is important that the government expand measures that are effective in cooperation with companies as well as restaurants and bars.

The government has decided to ease all coronavirus-related restrictions on activities connected to events and dining out. This decision is reasonable given that infections have dropped to low levels.

The government had previously requested that the number of attendees at events such as sports matches or music concerts be capped at 5,000, or 50% of venue capacity. But 100% capacity will now be allowed. Organizers are requested to devise safety plans to prevent infections.

Events that would have attracted large crowds were greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, most notably the Tokyo Olympics, which was held without spectators in principle. Society will regain its vitality when people become able once again to enjoy various events.

People must keep in mind to still take basic precautions, such as wearing masks, so that the increase in people going out will not lead to a renewed surge in infections.

The government had asked people to avoid dining out in groups of five or more, but will no longer request any limits on the size of customer groups.

Many restaurants and bars suffered hardships because drinking in groups was associated with high risk of infection. The restaurant industry covers a wide range, including foodstuffs producers and wholesalers, and employs many people. If the restrictions are eased, normalization of the economy will gain traction.

The government plans to encourage the use of a “vaccine and testing package” that utilizes certificates of either vaccination or a negative PCR test or other proof at the entrances of events and restaurants.

Even if another state of emergency is declared, no limits on group numbers will be established as long as the package is used. Restaurants and bars previously certified by prefectural governments as countermeasure-compliant would be allowed in some cases to remain open until 9 p.m. or serve alcoholic beverages.

Many users praised the package in a survey conducted by the government, saying it gave them a sense of security. It is no small matter that businesses that take appropriate measures against infection can continue to operate.

The government needs to expand its PCR testing system, and devise measures to ensure that verification proceeds smoothly at restaurants and bars.

The government has also set a new guideline to determine the infection situation, which will be used to decide whether to declare a state of emergency or issue less-strict priority measures to prevent the spread of the disease. It plans to take stronger measures, including declaring a state of emergency, at Level 3, the second-most serious situation on the new five-level scale starting at Level 0, with more emphasis on the potential strain on the medical service system.

Medical and other experts have said suspending use of the package should be considered if the infection situation worsens. To prevent confusion among businesses, the government should work out in advance the details about what to do if there is a surge in infections.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Nov. 21, 2021.