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A three-day high-tech experiment began Friday at a baseball stadium in Yokohama to study ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at major events, with the cap on the number of spectators being raised above the current 50% for large venues.

With the government cautiously seeking to relax restrictions, the cap was moved up to 80% of the stadium’s capacity of 32,402 for the game between the DeNA BayStars and the Hanshin Tigers. On Friday night, the attendance was 16,594, barely above 50% of capacity.

The ceiling was raised for the two games on the weekend, and local government officials are hoping to see the stadium fully packed on Sunday. To attract spectators to the games held at Yokohama Stadium, ticket prices have been discounted by 35%.

An official points to an anemometer installed at Yokohama Stadium as part of a high-tech experiment to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus at major events. | KYODO
An official points to an anemometer installed at Yokohama Stadium as part of a high-tech experiment to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus at major events. | KYODO

The officials will study the flow of people in the roofless stadium and the percentage of people wearing masks, using NEC Corp.’s facial recognition technology, with 13 high-precision cameras installed in the stands.

Yokohama Stadium is to be the main venue for baseball and softball events for the postponed Tokyo Olympics next summer.

The experiment comes as the nationwide tally of coronavirus cases stands at more than 100,000, including 712 from the Diamond Princess Cruise ship, which was quarantined in Yokohama near Tokyo in February.

Japan in September scrapped the limit of 5,000 spectators and allowed up to 50% of capacity of venues that hold more than 10,000 people.

The government will consider its next steps based on the results of the trial conducted by the Kanagawa prefectural and Yokohama city governments, as well as by mobile game developer DeNA Co., whose group operates the stadium as the base of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.

Closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded and close-contact settings are said to be conducive to the rapid spread of the virus.

The officials also hope to gather data on crowds using Line Corp.’s stationing beacons near bathrooms and around shops where spectators naturally gather.

A three-day high-tech experiment began Friday at a baseball stadium in Yokohama to study ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at major events, with the cap on the number of spectators being raised above the current 50% for large venues. | KYODO
A three-day high-tech experiment began Friday at a baseball stadium in Yokohama to study ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at major events, with the cap on the number of spectators being raised above the current 50% for large venues. | KYODO

The amount of ventilation will be checked using carbon dioxide analyzers and anemometers, while cell phone locations will allow them to see the flow of people at nearby train stations and entertainment districts.

Based on the retrieved data, the Fugaku supercomputer will analyze the velocity of saliva air droplets, a means by which the virus is believed to travel, according to the officials.

A similar experiment will be conducted on Nov. 7-8 at Tokyo Dome when the Yomiuri Giants are scheduled to play against the Yakult Swallows.

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