Japan to limit gatherings, public events

Source:Agencies Published: 2020/2/17 20:18:40

Emperor’s birthday celebration canceled, marathon restricted

Japan's Emperor Naruhito (Left) and Empress Masako wave during a royal parade in Tokyo on Sunday. Thousands gathered in Tokyo on Sunday for a rare open-top car parade featuring newly enthroned Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, with heavy security in place for the event. Photo :AFP

Japan said Monday it would limit public crowds in Tokyo to prevent a further spread of the deadly coronavirus, scrapping the emperor's birthday celebrations and closing next month's ­Tokyo Marathon to all but elite professional runners.

The widening fallout of the outbreak is threatening large public events and damaging output and tourism in Japan. A further spread of the virus could undermine growth and potentially push the country into recession, analysts say.

Citing "circumstances," the Imperial Household Agency said it would cancel Emperor Naruhito's public birthday address on February 23, his first since his coronation last year. 

The event regularly attracts tens of thousands of people to the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace in the heart of Tokyo.

The last time the emperor's birthday celebration was cancelled was 1996, amid a hostage crisis at the Japanese embassy in Peru.

Organizers of the Tokyo Marathon, one of the world's biggest such races, say the 38,000 general participants who signed up for the March 1 race will not be allowed to compete.

Instead, the event will be limited to top-level competitors. A total of 176 elite runners and 30 elite wheelchair athletes are registered for the race.

A hospital in Sagamihara, 50 kilometers west of Tokyo, said it would stop admitting new patients after one of its staff tested positive for the virus after treating an inpatient who died of the disease this month. 

Japanese media reported Monday that an additional 99 people on the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess off Yokohama have been confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus, bringing the number of people infected to 454. 

Fourteen US citizens tested positive for the virus during the evacuation of over 300 US nationals and their family members from the ship, the US State Department said Monday. 

Governments are scrambling to repatriate their citizens, with Canada, Australia and Italy poised to follow Washington in removing nationals from the vessel.

On Monday morning, a fifth chartered flight carrying 65 Japanese arrived in Tokyo from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, bringing the total number repatriated from the city to 763, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.

Hundreds of passengers are preparing to be evacuated from the quarantined cruise ship, and one member of the testing team from Japan's health ministry has tested positive for the disease, the ministry said.

Companies are stepping up measures to prevent the spread of the virus as a growing number of cases have been reported in people who have neither visited China nor have had direct contact with people arriving from there.


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