Japan to decide on easing virus restrictions on events and eateries

Japan will formally decide on Friday to remove an existing spectator cap on attendance at large-scale events as well as ease rules on eating and drinking establishments, mostly relating to any future COVID-19 state of emergency, as the country has seen a sharp decline in new and serious cases of the coronavirus.

Under the new plan approved by a government panel of experts in the morning, full attendance at venues will be allowed under certain conditions, including putting a system in place to check whether visitors have been vaccinated or have tested negative for the virus. The cap will not be re-imposed during virus emergencies.

“We will take every possible steps to protect the lives and health of people even under the next wave of infections so people can continue to lead safe and secure everyday lives,” said economic revitalization minister Daishiro Yamagiwa, in charge of the government’s coronavirus response, at the panel’s meeting.

Until now, attendance at large-scale events such as professional sports games and concerts has been capped at 5,000 spectators or 50% of venue capacity, whichever is larger. But such limits will be lifted if, in addition to checking vaccination and test statues, event organizers submit to prefectural governments their own anti-virus plans, including steps to ban loud cheering.

The new rules are expected to be implemented from late November. The move comes as more than 75% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated.

Restaurants and bars recognized by local governments as having taken proper measures to prevent the spread of virus, meanwhile, will be allowed to stay open until 9 p.m. under any future state of emergency, compared with 8 p.m. under current rules, and will be able to serve alcohol.

There will be no time restrictions applied for such establishments under the less strict quasi-state of emergency.

A current requirement that they request customers to limit group sizes to four people per table will be removed so long as business operators confirm customers’ proof of vaccination or negative virus test result on site.

Vaccination certificates will be available after 14 days or more after individuals receive their second shots. Negative test results will be valid for three days after samples are taken.

COVID-19 test results for children age under 6 will not be required if they are accompanied by a guardian, while those age 6 to 11 will need a negative test result.

In addition, travelers and those on business trips can now cross prefectural borders freely if they hold proof of vaccination or a negative virus test result even under a state of emergency.

Under the previous virus emergencies, people were asked to refrain from making nonessential outings.

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