Coffeehouse chain shuts its doors to keep customers away but ends up attracting crowds instead.

Starbucks is huge in Japan. There are 1,200-plus branches, including the company’s second-largest Reserve Roastery. The green mermaid’s goods are so sought after here that Japan-exclusive beverages are constantly being released and limited-edition drinkware collections sell out as soon as they hit the stores.

With so many customers walking through their doors in Japan every day, Starbucks was quick to take steps to protect staff and customers during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak. However, now that a state of emergency has been declared in seven prefectures by the central government, with strong appeals to members of the public to stay at home, Starbucks is upping their countermeasures by closing 850 of their stores.

The closures took effect from 9 April in the seven prefectures under the state of emergency (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka). And on the day before the closures, customers proved to be desperate for a final taste of Starbucks as they queued outside a number of locations before they even opened.

The tweet above, shared by Twitter user @iiiikasu, shows lines outside a number of locations, including the Starbucks at Kamata Station in Osaka, pictured on the left of the three images.

Online commenters were less than impressed to see people queuing in close proximity of each other and with no regard for social distancing, berating the scenes with:

“Don’t people realise the reason Starbucks is closing is to stop people from congregating in close proximity at their stores?”
“I understand that if a store is set to close, people suddenly want to go there, but come on — they should understand the seriousness of the current situation.”
“No common sense at all.”
“These people have Frappuccinos for brains.”
“When did Japan become like this?”

While a lot of people expressed frustration with the behaviour of their fellow citizens, the Japanese government has no power to force people to stay indoors, even under the state of emergency, which came into effect on 7 April.

In the lead-up to the emergency declaration, the government also specifically asked people to refrain from going out at night and on the weekends, rather than asking them to stay in as much as possible at all times, which they’ve now decided to do.

Furthermore, social distancing and recommendations to stay two metres from others has only recently been mentioned by governments, so it’s little wonder people are confused as to what they should be doing in the midst of the current health crisis.

Kudos to Starbucks for leading the way, though, and placing importance on the health of staff and customers over finances. Here’s hoping more establishments take action with their own countermeasures, like these ones now in place at convenience stores, so we can prevent more cases of transmission and get back to some sense of normality soon.

Sources: Starbucks Japan, My Game News Flash
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