In order to restore the kind of daily life soon in which many people can freely enjoy events, it is important for both organizers and spectators to cooperate in the prevention of infections and build up a record of events that were held safely.
The government intends to ease restrictions on Saturday on the number of spectators at events, which had been implemented as a measure against the novel coronavirus.
It is said that venues for performances where audience members do not call and shout, such as classical music, theatrical performances and movies, can be fully occupied if the capacity is less than 5,000 people. For large-scale events with more than 10,000 spectators, such as professional baseball games, the upper limit of 5,000 people will be abolished to allow up to 50% venue capacity.
These classifications were based on the size of the facility and whether the event is accompanied by cheering. It can be said to result from an emphasis on the risk of infection through airborne droplets.
Events are supported by admission revenue. Many organizers welcome the easing of the restrictions in terms of profitability, but are reluctant to accept spectators to the fullest extent. In some cases, it may be difficult to add spectators because tickets have already been sold on the assumption that few seats will be occupied.
Twelve professional baseball clubs and the J.League professional soccer teams will decide the number of spectators on their own. The baseball clubs are each dealing with the issue differently. For example, the Yomiuri Giants have set the rate at 45% of capacity, or up to 19,000 people, while the Chunichi Dragons have set it at 30%.
In the world of classical music and theatrical performances, there are many organizations that have taken a cautious stance. When there are many elderly fans, it is necessary to pay special attention to crowds at spectators’ seats.
Although there are many people who may feel frustrated, under the current circumstances in which coronavirus infections are yet to be brought under control, there is nothing for it but to cautiously increase the number of spectators, while keeping an eye on the infection situation in each area.
If a cluster of infections occurs, the industry would suffer serious damage. The mass infection at a theater in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, was caused by insufficient measures taken by the organizers to prevent infections, such as closing windows during performances.
With the easing of restrictions on the number of spectators, organizers are pressed to take careful measures against the virus. Such measures include avoiding crowding when spectators enter and leave the venues, and obtaining contact information in case of infections. They should keep in mind that if they let their guard down, that would directly lead to the expansion of infections.
Without the cooperation of audience members, it is impossible to hold events safely. It is important for each individual to be aware of strictly observing the rules, such as by wearing a mask and refraining from cheering with loud voices and instruments such as horns and drums.
What measures are needed to accept a large number of spectators at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics scheduled for next summer? Measures to be taken at various events will be a test for the Olympics.
If infections spread again, entry restrictions could become stricter once more. Thorough implementation of preventive measures against the coronavirus and efforts not to reverse the current trend of easing restrictions are needed.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sept. 18, 2020.