This year’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards, set to be hosted in Kyushu’s Saga Prefecture from March 22-24, have been forced to go online only due to fears surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19), restricted travel across Asia and the Japanese government’s advice to limit large-scale events.

The planned program would have included a series of gastronomic gatherings in the prefecture, culminating in the annual awards evening. Instead, a live virtual awards ceremony will be held on March 24.

Charles Reed, CEO of William Reed, the company behind 50 Best, said of the decision to cancel: “This is an extremely difficult decision for us, as we very much wanted to support the restaurant industry across Asia, which has suffered from the side effects of the coronavirus situation in recent weeks. However, it has become clear in the last day or two that, despite our best endeavors, it would not be responsible to stage our events as planned.”

The Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards was founded in 2013, and Japanese restaurants typically make a strong showing on the list. At the 2019 awards, hosted in Macao, 12 Japanese restaurants were included on the 50 Best list.

The 2020 ceremony was set to be the first time the awards would be hosted in Japan.

Yoshinori Yamaguchi, governor of Saga Prefecture, said: “We have been in close communication with the team at 50 Best and have come to this reluctant decision together in order to safeguard all parties concerned. … We very much hope to host guests for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in Saga at the next opportunity.”

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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