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8/26 Update: Japan During the Coronavirus Crisis: Initiatives, Beating Heat Stroke, and More

This article focuses on the coronavirus (COVID-19), which is having devastating effects all around the world. Although the Japanese economy has taken a great hit due to the pandemic, some new initiatives have been implemented. This article introduces these new initiatives together with advice on how to survive the summer heat during this crisis.

Latest Information on the Coronavirus in Japan

The first case of the coronavirus in Japan was confirmed on January 16, 2020. After that, the number of cases started increasing from around February.

As the number of cases increased, the Japanese government took measures such as requesting that people self-isolate and wear masks, postpone or cancel large-scale events, and shut down all primary and secondary schools nationwide. However, on April 3, the number of cases exceeded 3,000, leading to the official declaration on April 7 of a state of emergency in seven prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka. On April 16, the state of emergency was extended to the entire country, but was lifted in 39 prefectures on May 14. The state of emergency, which lasted in total for about seven weeks, was finally lifted nationwide on May 25. After lifting the state of emergency, measures such as self-isolation and limits to the use of public facilities will likely be relaxed in stages. However, the Japanese government is reminding residents to continue with infection prevention efforts for the time being, such as refraining from going out and keeping distance from other people.

The policy of the national and prefectural governments moving forward will be to continue to monitor the situation, prepare for the possibility of a second wave by strengthening the healthcare system and testing facilities, and striking the right balance between stopping the spread of infection and maintaining society's economic activity.

As of August 18th, 2020, Japan has had a total of 57,777 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 1,135 deaths as a result (excluding cruise ship passengers).
Currently, 121 countries and regions around the world have placed travel restrictions against travelers arriving from Japan. In addition, 93 countries and regions have placed movement restrictions on travelers from Japan after entry. Japan, too, has placed restrictions banning travel from 146 different countries.
*This article was written using information available as of August 18th, 2020.

New Initiatives Launched Amidst the Coronavirus Crisis

Use of public transportation, including taxis, and of accommodations and services, such as hotels and karaoke bars, dropped dramatically after citizens were asked to voluntarily refrain from going out unless necessary. This had a profound effect on the Japanese economy.
However, new initiatives were launched even under these conditions.

For example, the consumer electronics manufacturer Sharp and the automaker Toyota have begun producing face masks. Also, taxi companies have launched services to shop for and deliver food and daily necessities to consumers who do not wish to go out. Taxi companies have also started to deliver food for restaurants.
In Hokuto City, Hokkaido, each household with a member who is 75 years old or older has received 10 coupons that cover the base fare of a taxi ride. In Utsunomiya City, Tochigi, the base fare (740 JPY) of a taxi ride is free when hiring one for shopping or to go out to eat (until the end of August).

Karaoke bars, which consumers have been urged to avoid due to the heightened risk of infection, have begun offering rooms as offices for people working remotely. Many companies are encouraging employees to work from home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, so this is a welcome service for those who may find it difficult to work at home, perhaps due to small children or poor internet connection.
Some hotels, which have seen a drop in demand due to decreased tourism, have also begun offering rooms to remote workers.
Tokyo has launched a website listing hotels offering rooms for remote workers called "HOTEL WORK TOKYO (Japanese only)." This website also has information to help companies based in Tokyo promote remote work and assist employees finding it difficult to work from home.

Preventing the Coronavirus and Heat Stroke

Frequent hand washing, physical distancing, and mask-wearing are encouraged to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, heat can get trapped inside face masks, pushing up the temperature around the mouth by about 3°C, making it difficult to breathe and increasing the heart rate and respiratory rate by about 10%. It is therefore said that mask-wearing can add to the danger of heat stroke when the temperature rises.

Here are some tips for preventing heat stroke while avoiding the risk of contracting the coronavirus:

1. Avoid the heat
・Use your air conditioner. When using the air conditioner, make sure the room is ventilated by opening the window or turning the fan on.
・If you feel unwell, do not persevere but move to a cool place immediately. If you are outside, go to a shady or breezy area.
2. Take your mask off when appropriate
・Take your mask off when you are outside and can physically distance from others (2 m or more).
・Avoid strenuous activities or exercise when wearing a mask and be sure to take breaks without a mask while physically distancing from others.

3. Hydrate frequently
・Be sure to take liquids frequently, even if you are not feeling thirsty (the guideline is 1.2 liters a day).
・Be sure to get your salt intake too if you have sweated a lot.
4. Manage your health on a regular basis
・Check your temperature and health at the same time every day.
・If you feel unwell, stay at home and rest.
5. Keep fit so that you can withstand the heat
・Once it starts to become hot, exercise regularly without overextending yourself (in a warm environment for about 30 minutes every day at a level that you feel you are working a bit hard).

If you monitor your health on a regular basis, you will be able to notice any changes and prevent heat stroke.

The Three Cs

On March 28, 2020, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare made an official announcement on "avoiding the three Cs".
The three Cs refers to the three factors that could easily cause a mass infection of the coronavirus: closed spaces, crowded places, and close contact. In order to prevent the spread of the disease and mass infection, these types of settings should be avoided. In more detail, the three refer to:
・Closed spaces with poor ventilation
・Crowded places where many people gather
・Close-contact settings such as close-range conversations

The government has taken measures to prevent areas with the three Cs, where there is an increased risk of a "cluster" of infections. The government has also called for people to refrain from going places where the three Cs apply, such as live music venues, karaoke establishments, and nightclubs.
Avoiding the three Cs, proper hand washing and gargling, wearing a mask, and observing social distancing are small things, yet each person being aware and making the effort to prevent infection will all add up and lead to the protection of our loved ones from the virus.

The New Travel Etiquette That Travelers Should Be Aware Of

With the lifting of the state of emergency on May 25th, voluntary stay-at-home restrictions began softening in a step-by-step fashion, and by June 19th, the voluntary restriction on travel between prefectures was lifted.
On the same day the restriction was lifted, the Japan Association of Travel Agents devised and published a "New Travel Etiquette" guide. The guide, written as a series of haiku poems (3 lines with a syllable count of 5-7-5) with illustrations, summarized measures that travelers could take to reduce the risk of infection while in various travel situations, such as while using public transport, staying at a hotel, or shopping.

The New Travel Etiquette That Travelers Should Be Aware Of

Basics of the New Travel Style

Also announced with the New Travel Etiquette was a set of tips called the “Basics of the New Travel Style,” which gave further concrete examples of actions that could be taken during travel to help prevent infection.
The basics outlined in the guide include a daily health check, mask usage, thorough hand washing and gargling, as well as many other specific measures for public transportation, meals, overnight stays, sightseeing spots, shopping, and more.

Things to Keep in Mind When Using Public Transportation or Having a Meal

The following are things to keep in mind when using public transportation to get around or when eating out at a restaurant during a trip.

[Public Transportation]
・Even on the train, / don't forget to wear a mask. / Put it on and go.
・Talking is great fun, / but while inside the train car, / try not to say much.
・To have a safe trip / avoid times and seasons with / a lot of people.
・Walk or ride a bike / and you will surely unearth / all the local charms.

[Dining Out]
・Sit and eat outdoors! / Not only is it safe, but / it is really fun!
・Delicious food should / absolutely be safe and / free from all worries.
・Sit side by side, please. / You can focus on the food / more, sitting this way.
・Gourmet eating means / less talking and more tasting. / Enjoy all the food.
・There's no need to rush / just enjoy at your own pace. / Delicious sake.

While traveling, don't forget to wear a mask and wash or sanitize your hands regularly, and when choosing a place to eat, pick a restaurant that has coronavirus safety measures in place.

Things to Keep in Mind When Sightseeing or Shopping

When on vacation, we all want to be able to shop and sightsee to our heart's content, right? Keep the following points in mind when shopping or sightseeing at your travel destination in order to get the most out of the experience.

[Sightseeing Spots]
・For safe sightseeing, / choose the right place and right time, / avoiding the crowds.
・Book in advance to / enjoy your trip without all / the people or lines.
・A small, narrow room? / Don't want to linger here long. / I'll see you outside.
・They’re cool and secure! / Online tickets and cashless / are the way to go.
・Always remember, / a mask is your ticket to / enter anywhere.
・When in doubt, talk less / and put that energy to / use by hand washing.

[Shopping]
・Stay safe when shopping / by visiting stores outside / of busy hours.
・Choosing souvenirs, / there's no need to touch it all. / Use your eyes to shop.
・When waiting in line, / go slowly and make sure to / always leave a gap.
・Digital payment / is a-okay, even for / small things and amounts.

Shopping presents an increased risk of touching items that have been handled by a large number of people. To decrease the risk of infection while shopping for souvenirs, try to avoid touching food or other items that you are considering purchasing.

Things to Keep in Mind When Staying at a Hotel or Ryokan

Due to their many common spaces, there are more chances to come in contact with other people at hotels and ryokan, which means it is important to keep the following points in mind to ensure all guests' comfort.

[Hotels and Ryokan]
・When around others, / cover your mouth with a mask. / This is etiquette.
・Got something to say? / Wait until you’re in your room. / Then you can chit chat.
・Public bathing space. / The water is best enjoyed / sitting quietly.
・Open your window / and feel the fresh air outside / every now and then.
・Oh, look, there’s a guest. / Make sure you don’t approach them. / Greet from a distance.
・Wash your hands after / you touch door knobs and buttons / in elevators.
If you touch a doorknob or elevator button, wash your hands.
・Wash your hands with soap / or disinfect with alcohol / for a safe sojourn.

It's easy to slip into careless behaviors while relaxing on vacation, but it's very important to follow proper travel etiquette to protect ourselves and others from infection, especially in places like hotels with many common spaces.

What Is Tokyo's Coronavirus Roadmap?

On May 22, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced a roadmap to be followed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus while maintaining economic activity. The five main points are as follows:

1. Limit the spread of the coronavirus as much as possible by rigorously implementing stay-at-home and other measures.
2. Strike a balance with the lives of Tokyo citizens and socioeconomic activities through monitoring and other efforts.
3. Issue a "Tokyo Alert" if and when necessary.
4. Strengthen the healthcare and testing systems so that Japan is fully ready for a second wave of coronavirus infections.
5. Build a society in which a "new normal" is established.

Seven indices to measure infection rates, healthcare, and monitoring have been determined and are updated on the Tokyo government's COVID-19 Information Website and also communicated through lights on the Rainbow Bridge. If a "Tokyo Alert" is issued due to indications of increasing infections, the lights on the Rainbow Bridge will turn red.

Rainbow Bridge lit up in blue to recognize the contributions of healthcare workers.

Steps for Relaxing Business Suspension Requests

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced that after the state of emergency is lifted, business suspension requests will be gradually relaxed for different industries and facilities while taking maximum care to prevent infections. There are four steps to lifting business suspension requests, starting with Step 0 (the full state of emergency) through Step 1 to 3 in accordance with infection rates.
Planned relaxation under each step is described in the table below.

Table on Steps for Relaxing Business Suspension Requests

On June 11th, as the numbers expressing infection rates had fallen below the three benchmarks set by the government, the Tokyo Alert was officially lifted and it was decided that Tokyo could progress to step 3 of its plan to reopen businesses. According to this step, restaurants and bars were allowed to stay open until 12 am, and businesses such as karaoke chains and manga cafes were allowed to resume business.
On the 19th of the same month, all restrictions on businesses were effectively ended, as restrictions on hours of operation for restaurants and bars were lifted and businesses in the entertainment industry, including concert houses, were allowed to reopen.
From now on, Tokyo will be steering the helm of a new era called “With Corona,” wherein the city will take actions to prevent the possibility of a second coronavirus wave while finding ways to continue economic and social activity.

The "New Normal" in Practice

Although the state of emergency has been lifted, measures to battle the coronavirus will continue for the foreseeable future. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has put together examples of how to incorporate the "new normal" in everyday life based on recommendations by the Novel Coronavirus Expert Meeting. Following are the specifics:

1. Standard Infection Control Measures

The three standard practices each individual should adhere to are physical distancing, mask-wearing, and hand-washing.

・Keep a physical distance of at least 1 m from others and 2 m where possible.
・If going out for leisure, try to stay outdoors instead of indoors.
・When conversing, avoid directly facing others as much as possible.
・When leaving the house, wear masks indoors or when talking, even if you have no symptoms.
・Wash hands immediately after returning home. Change clothes and shower as soon as possible.
・Wash hands thoroughly for about 30 seconds using water and soap (or hand sanitizer).
*Be especially vigilant when meeting elderly people or people with pre-existing conditions.

Infection Control Measures for Traveling
・Avoid traveling from or to areas with high infection rates.
・Avoid trips to see family or for leisure and limit business travel to necessary trips.
・Take notes on where you have met people in case you test positive.
・Stay informed about infection rates in your area.

2. Lifestyle Considerations

Following are points to be aware of in your daily life:
・Diligently practice hand hygiene (washing/sanitizing).
・Diligently practice coughing etiquette.
・Ventilate frequently.
・Practice physical distancing.
・Avoid the "three C's" (crowded places, close contact, closed spaces).
・Check your temperature and health every morning and remain at home if you have a fever or cold symptoms.

3. In Everyday Life (Specific Examples)

[Shopping]
・Utilize online shopping.
・Shop alone or with a limited number of people and try to go when the stores are less crowded.
・Use electronic payments.
・Plan ahead to finish quickly.
・Avoid touching samples and other items that are displayed.
・Stand far enough apart from others when lining up for the register.

[Leisure, Sports, Etc.]
・When going to the park, choose a relatively empty time and location.
・Use videos for weight training, yoga, etc. at home.
・Jog alone or with a limited number of people.
・Practice physical distancing when passing others.
・Make reservations to enjoy services at leisure.
・Do not stay in small rooms for extended periods of time.
・Practice distancing when singing or cheering, or use online platforms.

[Public Transportation]
・Keep conversations to a minimum.
・Avoid crowded times.
・Walk or bicycle whenever possible.

[Meals]
・Get takeout and delivery.
・Enjoy eating outdoors.
・Avoid shared plates, order individually.
・Sit side-by-side instead of facing one another.
・Focus on the food, limit conversations.
・Do not pour drinks for each other, do not share glasses or sake cups.

[Family Events Such As Weddings and Funerals]
・Avoid eating in large groups.
・Do not participate if you have a fever or cold symptoms.

4. A New Way of Working

・Work at home or take turns in the office.
・Stagger commute times.
・Keep space in the office.
・Exchange business cards and hold meetings online.
・If meeting in person, wear masks and be sure to ventilate.

10 Tips for Reducing Contact Between People by 80 Percent

The state of emergency that was declared in seven prefectures (including Tokyo and Osaka) on April 7, 2020 was extended to the entire country on April 16. However, a panel of experts on coronavirus infection control measures revealed that following the declaration of a state of emergency, the objective set for stopping the spread of the infection, “an 80 percent reduction in contact between people”, has not been thoroughly carried out, so on April 22, they introduced 10 tips for reducing contact with others. Read on for a more detailed description of the measures.

10 Tips for Reducing Contact Between People by 80 Percent

1. Online Family Reunions via Video Chat

If you live away from your family, you must want to know how they are doing and go check on them; however, long-distance travel on public transport comes with the risk of infection. And at your family home, there may also be an increase of contact with elderly people who have a high risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus, so stay in touch with video chat software instead.

2. Go to Supermarkets Alone or in Small Groups at Less Crowded Times

Supermarkets are extremely convenient for purchasing the essentials for daily life. However, if you go when it's crowded such as in the evening, or go shopping in a large group, the aisles and register will become a crowded, closed space, creating a high risk of infection.
In order to avoid crowds, Google your store’s busy times beforehand, and go to the supermarket alone at a time where it's as empty as possible. So that you can get your grocery shopping done quickly, it’s suggested to make a shopping list ahead of time as well.

3. Choose a Less Crowded Park at a Less Crowded Time for Jogging in Small Groups

As people continue to stay indoors, jogging has become popular as a way to keep up an exercise routine. Outdoor exercise is considered safe; however, from a perspective of infection prevention, it’s best to jog alone or in small groups. While running, cover your mouth and nose with a mask or buff, and keep a sufficient distance from other runners. Also, when going to a park, try to choose a time and place that's less crowded.

4. If It Can Wait, Buy It Online

In order to avoid non-essential and non-urgent outings, use e-commerce sites to purchase items that you don’t need right away and daily necessities that keep well.

5. Have Online Drinking Parties

Stress can build up as the isolation continues, so there are probably a lot of people who want to occasionally go for a drink with friends. To maintain reduced contact with others, try holding a drinking party using an online video chat service. If you have a suitable network connection, all you need is your own food and drink, and you can easily communicate with friends and acquaintances.

6. Use Remote Medical Services and Reschedule Regular Health Checks

If you’re feeling unwell, try getting an online medical consultation first. This prevents the spread of infection from patients, particularly infecting health care workers. And if possible, reschedule any regular health checks to free up consultation appointments.

7. Use Videos for Workouts and Yoga at Home

There are tons of at-home workouts, yoga, and fitness exercise videos available on online video streaming platforms such as YouTube and sports clubs’ sites. Sports and physical activity are important for maintaining your physical and mental health, so use these to be proactive in moving your body at home.

8. Order Takeout or Home Delivery

As people continue working from home, many people are eating meals at home more often. Daily meal preparation can be difficult, so many people are probably thinking about eating out occasionally. However, eating at a restaurant has a high risk of infection, so try to avoid it. Recently, many restaurants have been offering takeout and delivery services, so use those instead.

9. Work From Home! Only Essential Workers Should Commute

Commuting to work on a crowded train and working in a busy office have an extremely high risk of virus infection. You should not commute unless you work in an industry that is vital for the functioning of society, such as medical, infrastructure, or physical distribution. Other than that, you should work from home if possible.

10. Wear a Mask When Talking

The coronavirus spreads from person to person through droplets and contact. Also, even if you are not coughing or sneezing, if you are having a conversation in a closed space with many people at close range, there is still a risk of spreading the virus. A five-minute conversation at close range is said to be the same as coughing once, so when talking to people or leaving the house, always wear a mask.

In this article, we covered how Japan is currently coping with the coronavirus, the new initiatives coming out of this difficult situation, and ways to beat the heat while staying safe. There are still no signs to its end, but we hope that you can implement the information in this article to protect both yourself and others.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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