Tokyo, March 6 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese government decided Friday to cancel this year’s memorial ceremony for the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami to prevent a further spread of the new coronavirus.
“We have regrettably come to a decision to give up on holding (the event), at it is time to take all possible measures (against the virus),” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement.
“We offer apologies to bereaved family members and other people concerned.”
The government-sponsored ceremony was scheduled to take place in Tokyo on Wednesday, the ninth anniversary of the disaster in northeastern Japan.
Abe said he will offer a silent prayer at the prime minister’s office and make remarks that day, according to the statement.
The government initially considered going ahead with the ceremony by refusing the attendance of the public and taking other preventive measures against COVID-19.
“We had been seeking until the very end to hold the event by scaling it back and taking other steps to prevent the spread of the virus,” the statement said.
On Feb. 26, following an increase in the number of infections, Abe called for large-scale events to be canceled or postponed.
He requested the following day all elementary, junior high and high schools, and special-needs schools across the country to close from last Monday through the start of the regular spring break, saying that the next one to two weeks are crucial to the containment of the outbreak.
The cancellation of the memorial ceremony is “really regrettable,” postdisaster reconstruction minister Kazunori Tanaka told a news conference.
The Reconstruction Agency plans to offer condolences to victims’ families on Wednesday, according to Tanaka.