Number of cases(as of June 30)
When the virus began spreading in March and April, Tokyo reported as many as 201 new cases a day (on April 17) and total cases rose above 10,000 on April 18. The state of emergency was announced on April 7 and then extended until the end of May. Schools were closed and people mainly had to stay home and work from home during that time. Although once the number of cases dropped to below 10 people per day in the middle of May, it is slightly rising over the past 7 days (as of June 30, average was 55 cases per day in Tokyo). There are reports of cases in Hokkaido and Yokohama as well and total of 135 cases were reported nationwide on June 30. Schools have already began to reopen on June 1 and the government lifted requests for restrictions on crossing prefectural borders on June 19. Provided they take measures against infection, live music venues can open and events with up to 1,000 people can take place now but many people are concerned about the 2nd wave.
Before and After the virus
・Before the virus
We clearly did not see what would come… we were welcoming visitors to Japan from overseas more than ever believing a big success of Tokyo Olympic and never thought of changing the way we commute and work. The number of visitors to Japan from overseas was constantly rising since 2012 hitting over 31,800,000 people last year. There were a lot of companies trying to attracts tourists and individuals who started offering rooms for use on Airbnb. Before the virus, it was pretty normal for many companies to start work together at the same time (sometime from 8:00 to 9:00),so there were always rush hours in the morning. Trains and buses were packed in city areas with people trying to be on time for work because you could be well evaluated for keeping time. The vacation time and holidays were set during the same seasons and days in many major companies and that allowed majority of people to go out together. That’s good if you would like to make plans with friends from different companies but because of that, tourists spots were usually really crowded.
・After the virus
With Coronavirus Era
Many people in Japan call this era “With Coronavirus Era”, seeing it will take a few years to overcome the virus and need to find ways to live with it. People are trying not to catch or spread the virus wearing masks everyday. Some restaurants, cafes, and supermarkets won’t let you in if you don’t wear a mask. At museums and events, your temperature is measured and you are asked to fill in a document with your information. After the spread of the virus, the percentage of remote work rose to 35.5% nationwide (52.2% in city areas). I personally think that this shift to remote work and more flex schedule for commuting to work are great changes to work more efficiently with less stress. And there’s a report about the significant reduce in catching the flu (minus 4,500,000 cases compared to last year) because people are more concerned about getting infected.
Impact on economy
The coronavirus outbreak is having a serious impact on the Japanese economy. Confidence among companies like automobile and electronics fell to minus 8, the lowest since March 2013. The index for non-manufacturers (including the service sector) dropped to 8 from 20. The number of travellers from overseas dropped 99%. According to a research by Newsweek, among 5,730,000 subjects of the investigation who had to close their businesses temporary in April and May, 49.4% of them are still closing and 1.7% lost their jobs. (The total number of unemployed is 1,980,000 now and it is increasing for 4 months in a row). NHK says that there’s an estimate that Sports, Stages, and Music events (that could not be held) alone could be the loss of 3 trillion yen this year.
HIS Japan, a major travel agency, has started a new service which is to cover your business trip for you. You can assign an agent to do some research and manage business remotely. This kind of new business is rapidly emerging in Japan now. And products that make your time at home enjoyable such as window decoration, rice flakes, and potteries that change color as you pour some drinks are getting more and more popular.
When will Japan be open to other countries ?
If things work well, people with PCR negative in Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, and New Zealand can travel to Japan from August but we will have to wait and see. Many economists and scientists estimate that it will take a few years to be able to travel overseas freely like we used to. Japanese government is currently hoping to test vaccine sometime in April next year so it is most likely that there won’t be a big change until then. I will keep on posting updates on my blog.
I hope things will get better soon. It is really sad that we can’t go overseas or gather at a big event but on the other hand, it is a chance to be creative and start new business online. Please keep safe wherever you are. And I’m looking forward to meeting you in person after when everything is over!
See you next time.