Japan eases limits on attendance at large events as virus cases fall

The government on Monday eased its 10,000-spectator attendance limit for large-scale events, such as professional sports games and concerts, that was in place in 27 of the country’s 47 prefectures, as part of its bid to restore social and economic activities amid a steady decline in coronavirus cases.

Attendance at events held across Japan can now be 5,000 spectators or 50% of venue capacity, whichever is larger, with large-scale event spaces allowed to accept more than 10,000 spectators in Tokyo and other regions that were under a state of emergency or a quasi-state of emergency through September.

Meanwhile, events that will see spectators shouting and cheering will be capped at 50% of venue capacity. Prefectural governors can also implement their own policies on spectator limits depending on the infection situation in their areas.

Whether an event is likely to involve shouting by spectators will be decided on a case by case basis.

While concerns still remain over a possible resurgence of infections, organizers of sports games and concerts have started preparing to accommodate more fans at events.

The Yakult Swallows professional baseball club sold tickets beforehand to welcome about 14,500 spectators, about half of the capacity at its Jingu Stadium in Tokyo, to the team’s final regular season game against the Hiroshima Carp on Monday night.

During the Climax Series playoffs starting later this month, Yakult plans to sell up to around 20,000 tickets per game. The event has been selected for a government program to test the admission of people showing proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result.

In the country’s pro soccer J. League, 10 matches are scheduled on Wednesday, including one between Yokohama F Marinos and Gamba Osaka at Nissan Stadium, where the organizers aim to admit around 30,000 fans.

Over 20,000 tickets have been sold for the match at the 72,000-capacity stadium in Yokohama. The match is expected to draw the largest crowd in the J. League first division this season.

Meanwhile, a senior official of a music association, which consists of promotion companies that organize concerts, said the group welcomes the easing of the restrictions and will begin preparing to admit larger crowds at events by selling additional tickets and holding discussions with the municipalities where venues are located.

“We will continue to work hard to prevent infections so our guests can feel at ease,” the senior official of the All Japan Concert and Live Entertainment Promoters Conference said in a statement.

The government fully lifted a coronavirus state of emergency and quasi-state of emergency on Oct. 1 following a decline in COVID-19 cases. But the areas that were under the measures had to limit attendance to a maximum of 10,000 for about a month as the government gradually lifted restrictions.

Japan saw record numbers of infections during this summer’s fifth wave of infections. The Tokyo Olympics were held without spectators at most venues in order to prevent the spread of infections.

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