Japan plans to relax a rule limiting the size of crowds at professional sports, music and other events later this month amid signs that coronavirus cases are decreasing nationwide, government sources said.
Under the current rule, venues are allowed to hold up to 50 percent of their capacity or up to a total of 5,000 people. The government is considering scrapping the 5,000-person cap as early as Sept. 19, the sources said.
The plan will be discussed when a panel of health experts meet on Friday.
The relaxation of the rule comes as part of government efforts to revive the pandemic-hit economy. The move would coincide with a four-day weekend in Japan starting Sept. 19.
Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said last month the government might relax the restriction before the end of September if the daily number of new infections substantially decreases.
Event operators and spectators will be required to take thorough measures to prevent both the resurgence of the virus and spread of seasonal influenza, said the sources.
Nippon Professional Baseball and the J. League, Japan's professional soccer league, jointly submitted their request to ease the spectator cap to the government on Tuesday.
The government initially planned to ease the limit on Aug. 1, but it was later extended to the end of August and then to the end of September as the country struggled to contain the virus.
At Friday's meeting, the health experts may also discuss whether the government can add trips to and from Tokyo to its travel subsidy campaign, according to the sources.
Such trips have been excluded from the controversial Go To Travel campaign, launched in July to revive the domestic tourism industry, as the capital has seen much higher numbers of daily infections than other parts of the country.
As part of measures to fight the virus, the Cabinet decided Tuesday to use ¥671.4 billion in reserve funds to purchase coronavirus vaccines currently being developed by drugmakers, Finance Minister Taro Aso told a news conference.
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