There’s a hole in the logic of the plan that’s supposedly meant to block germs.

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak continues to be on everyone’s mind in Japan, and especially so for event organizers and facility managers. Fears of the nightmare scenario of the virus spreading among members of a crowd who then all head back to their homes in different directions, passing the disease on to others along the way, has led to such decisions as the cancellation of Japan’s largest street cosplay event and the shuttering of Tokyo’s world-famous Ghibl Museum for three weeks.

The situation poses an especially difficult challenge for idol singer groups. Modern idol success is as much about forming an emotional bond with fans as it is the music itself, and many units, particularly small, up-and-coming ones, regularly hold meet-and-greet fan events where guests can shake hands and pose for pictures with their favorite vocalists.

In other words, idol groups thrive on providing close-proximity access to their most loyal supporters, but that’s exactly the sort of thing many are worried about in the current health climate. So in response, four-member idol group 2o Love to Sweet Bullet (the “2o Love” part being pronounced like “to love”), is requiring that fans attending their next event wear masks or pay a fine.

▼ Video for 2o Love to Sweet Bullet’s “Hitorijime Shitai”

The statement, released through its official Twitter account, 2o Love to Sweet Bullet says:

“In order to prevent transmission of the new-type coronavirus, we are making it a requirement for guests attending the next 2o Love product sale (fan appreciation party) to wear masks. Those not wearing masks will be charged an additional 1,000 yen [US$9.10] when taking polaroid photos [with the group’s members].

We are instituting this policy while fully understanding that the reason some guests ma not be wearing masks is because they are sold out in stores.”

As mentioned in the tweet, Japan is currently suffering from a nationwide shortage of masks, brought on by the increased demand for them triggered by coronavirus fears piling onto the already high demand for the items from late cold season and early hay fever season. It’s not unusual for every single shop in a neighborhood to be sold out, so not wearing a mask isn’t an immediate sign of a lack of conscientiousness, but apparently 2o Love and/or its management thinks the situation is serious enough that the group and attending fans need the extra protection.

…or do they? After the announcement was tweeted, several commenters chimed in to point out that at the same time the policy is claiming masks are a necessary health measure, charging people who show up without masks an extra 1,000 yen when taking photos isn’t going to do anything to prevent the spread of the virus if an infected person does show up to the event, reacting with:

“Just not admitting people who aren’t wearing masks would be smarter.”
“How about postponing the event until after the coronavirus situation settles down?”
“This is just a ploy to get more cash.”
“If you really want to protect the idols, you could set up a screen to keep people without masks from being close to them…or reschedule the event for a later date when masks aren’t so hard to come by.”
“If you don’t make it so people not wearing masks can’t take photos or talk with the idols, charging them an extra 1,000 yen isn’t going to help anyone. All I can see is a ploy to make extra money off the coronavirus.”

There was also a commenter whose reaction shows the policy could actually backfire and cause particularly obsessed fans who do have masks to leave them at home.

“What happens to the extra 1,000 yen? Do the idols themselves get to keep it? If so then I’m not wearing a mask!”

There’s theoretically chance that the logic behind the no-mask penalty is a hope that the extra charge will encourage fans who can’t find masks to just not go to the event at all because they don’t want to pay the extra fee. However, 1,000 yen is small potatoes to idol fans, and that’s something that industry professionals are absolutely aware of, so if the policy’s goal really is to prevent the spread of coronavirus, there’s a pretty big hole in its logic.

Source: Twitter/@2o_to via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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