Japan Lifts Cap on Event Attendance Ahead of Downgrading COVID-19 Category

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a meeting of the Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters on Friday.

The government lifted its restriction on crowd size at large events after it revised its basic response policy, which serves as a guideline for coronavirus countermeasures, at a meeting of its Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters on Friday.

The government concluded that basic infection control measures had been widely established by event organizers and that the government’s restrictions were no longer necessary.

The new standard became effective on the same day. As a result, as long as organizers implement basic infection control measures, there is no longer a limit on the number of spectators for sports events, such as baseball and soccer games, as well as concerts and so on, even when the audience can be expected to cheer loudly. From now on, the governor of each prefecture will set their own standards, and organizers will consider specific management methods.

Previously, if organizers formulated a safety plan for infection prevention, such as requiring spectators wear masks, the maximum attendance at events that did not allow loud cheering was set at 100% of capacity, while the maximum attendance at events that did allow loud cheering was set at 50% of capacity.

Events must still have a basic infection control plan, but maximum attendance even at loud-cheering events will be set at 100% of capacity, which is a significant easing of the restriction. Depending on the infection situations in particular areas, governors may also set restrictions at their discretion.

Since the basic response policy will be abolished with the revision of the classification of COVID-19 to Category V, the same level as seasonal flu, there will no longer be a basis for restrictions based on this policy. The government will have to consider how to respond after the revision.

The baseball and soccer seasons will go into full swing this spring, with the first-round Tokyo Pool of the 2023 World Baseball Classic to be played at Tokyo Dome starting on March 9, and the professional baseball season to begin on March 30. The J1 League will open its soccer season on Feb. 17.