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Tokyo Increases Virus Alert as Theater Venue Hosts Cluster of New Infections

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike speaks before
Yoshio Tsunoda/AFLO/Shutterstock

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike announced Wednesday that the city government is upping its coronavirus alert to the highest level on a one-to-four scale. This is in reaction to a rising number of infections, which increased by 165.

From early July, there have been more than 100 new infections almost daily in Tokyo, reaching a high of 243 on July 10, with many traced to nightlife businesses in Shinjuku and other districts in the city center.

On Tuesday, Japanese media reported that a stage play in Shinjuku featuring boy-band members had become the source of 37 infections at latest count, including five staffers, 16 actors and 21 audience members. A total of 850 people believed to be exposed are now being tested for the virus.

The venue, Theatre Moliere, presented the play 12 times across six days from June 30 to July 5. The production company, Rise Communication, said safety measures, such as temperature checks and separate dressing rooms for actors, were in place. Fans were required to wear masks.

However, the Japan Independent and Private Theatre Association, an organization of 31 Tokyo theater operators launched this June, has countered that Theatre Moliere, one of the org’s members, was not following its guidelines, which include rules for social distancing and mask wearing. The association has since called an emergency meeting to discuss how to prevent a recurrence.

The city government has not yet called for a fresh lockdown that would impact movie theaters. These have been reopening since early last month, with Toho and other major exhibitors planning to reboot their summer film schedules from this weekend.

Also, a sumo tournament that switched from Nagoya to Tokyo is still going ahead in front of socially-distanced spectators.