People now fear a lockdown is on the horizon in Tokyo.

While a number of governments around the world have been calling on their citizens to practice social distancing, avoid non-essential travel, and maintain a distance of six-feet between each other in an effort to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic, people in Japan have been largely free from such concerns.

Here, the government has been asking citizens to practice “jishuku“, or “self-restraint” in regards to attending big events, asking them to specifically avoid large gatherings in poorly ventilated areas where people talk loudly and in close proximity.

This request for “jishuku”, however, is a vague and seemingly lenient one that’s led to people crowding in well-ventilated areas like parks for hanami cherry blossom viewing, and travelling on packed trains to work as usual. There’s been no real sense of fear or panic here, but that suddenly changed after the governor of Tokyo held a press conference in the nation’s capital last night.

Speaking to the media, Governor Yuriko Koike said 41 new cases of coronavirus in Tokyo had been recorded that day, the biggest jump in numbers the city has seen so far, and more than double the previous daily record of 17.  Out of these new cases, the routes of infection for 13 were unclear, suggesting possible community spread. In order to avoid “an explosion of infectious cases”, Koike called for citizens to “work from home as much as possible during the week“, “refrain from going out at night“, and “avoid non-essential outings by all means necessary this weekend.

▼ The announcement comes a day after the decision was made to postpone this year’s Tokyo Olympics until next year.

The governor made it clear that now is a critical time to prevent an explosive rise in the number of infections, and said any decision to implement a citywide lockdown would be based on advice from health experts. This follows on from her statement on Monday that Tokyo could go into lockdown if the spread of the virus could not be contained.

Koike’s press conference appeared to have an effect on the public, who headed out to stores immediately afterwards to start panic-buying.

▼ Stores were unusually crowded for 9 p.m.

▼ One hour after the press release at a store in the middle of Tokyo.

▼ Meat and fresh produce shelves soon became empty.

▼ An expensive supermarket in Tokyo’s posh Minato Ward.

▼ And, like many other countries, the pasta section had been raided as well.

▼ Along with the rice section.

▼ Pasta, rice, and instant noodles, all gone.

People in the city couldn’t believe how quickly the products flew off shelves immediately after the governor’s press conference.

Even our own reporter P.K. Sanjun had a hard time finding his usual supplies of pasta and noodles at his local supermarket.

As Tokyo appears to enter phase two of its countermeasures to control the growing pandemic, the general public appears to have entered phase two of the panic buying as well.

Here’s hoping we don’t see a repeat of the toilet-paper panic-stealing that accompanied phase one of the panic-buying, where toilet paper was cleared from stores around the country.

As Koike said, now is a critical time in containing the outbreak, so keep washing those hands, stay indoors, and for the love of God, and your fellow neighbour, stay inside this weekend and away from the sakura cherry blossoms. You can always view them in VR instead.

Source: Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@n_tmvi
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