Here we go again….

As we enter the latter half of 2020, it looks like COVID-19 is coming back with a vengeance. In the past week Tokyo has been reporting daily infection rates that quickly surpassed those of last April when a state of emergency was declared there.

▼ This news report is in Japanese, but its disturbing graphs say it all really

Tokyo’s not alone though, with clusters popping up in neighboring prefectures like Chiba and Saitama, as well as other populated areas like Aichi and Osaka. But perhaps to get a clearer picture of the state of Japan, we should consult the McDonald’s Index.

For those wondering, the McDonald’s Index is something I just made up, but is essentially the rate of store closures due to crew members getting infected. Some of you may recall that early last March a COVID-19 infection was found in a Kyoto McDonald’s and about two months later the company decided to end eat-in service at about two-thirds of its restaurants.

Considering that single McDonald’s infection served as a harbinger for the state of emergency that ensued, maybe we should see how McDonald’s infections are doing right now. Also, I want to stress that this has nothing to do with the company itself, rather McDonald’s is a good reference because of how widespread it is across the country and forthcoming it is with reporting infections.

  • 9 July – The Settsu-Tonda Station McDonald’s in Takatsuki, Osaka was close when a part-time worker was found to have been infected
  • 10 July – A part-timer in Ota, Tokyo who was doing double duty at a pair of McDonald’s in Omori Station and Omori Ito-Yokado also came down with the coronavirus, and both locations were shut down
  • 11 July – A part-time worker at now-closed McDonald’s in Aeon Mall of Kashihara, Nara tested positive
  • 15 July – A food-court McDonald’s in Kawasaki, Kanagawa was closed when a part-timer there became infected
  • 15 July – A McDonald’s in Katsushika, Tokyo went down after one of it’s part-time staff members had gotten the coronavirus
  • 16 July – A part-time employee at a McDonald’s in Toyonaka, Osaka got the you-know-what and then they had to shut down
  • 16 July – A non-full-time worker in a Yokohama, Kanagawa McDonald’s was found to be coronavirus-positive and the shop closed up
  • 16 July – A McDonald’s in Sakai, Osaka was found to have a part-time worker with COVID-19 and took some time off
  • 17 July – A part-time worker at a Nakano, Tokyo McDonald’s tested positive for the coronavirus and thus the store closed

These are just the closures up until this writing, and it’s important to note by the dates that an acceleration in closures appears to be developing.

▼ As our regular McDonald’s correspondent, we are currently monitoring Seiji’s condition closely

Again, this isn’t to judge if McDonald’s own COVID-19 response policies are appropriate or not, but rather to make a comparison to the situation four months ago. It certainly resonated with many online as an indication of a bigger problem, but some still couldn’t resist to poke a little fun at the fast-food chain.

“This feels familiar, and I don’t like it.”
“They found corona in Omori too?!”
“A McDonald’s near where I work had to close because of the virus. It’s getting frighteningly close.”
“In Nakano too?!”
“You can get a smile and the coronavirus for free now.”
“It’s been going down for a while and even reached zero in some places. What happened?!”
“Maybe it’s because they had to remove their masks every time some idiot asked them for a free smile.”
“It’s natural that food workers are the hardest hit.”
“I think McDonald’s is openly reporting it because they are big enough to survive. I’m more worried about the other chains.”

Even if you think the McDonald’s Index is BS, actual data on COVID-19 infections is pretty much just as bleak for the current situation in Japan. The last time a fraction of this happened, the government issued a state of emergency, closed schools, and issued economic aid to all citizens, so what are they doing this time around?

Giving everyone in the country a discount to go traveling!

Back when Japan was easing out of the first wave of infections, the government quickly, but shortsightedly, set up the Go To Campaign, offering a reported 1.7 trillion yen (US$15.9 billion) in subsidies to hotels, souvenir shops, restaurants, and other travel related businesses so that they can offer irresistible deals to entice people to get out of their homes and spread out to other cities.

▼ “Go To Hell” has become an increasingly popular nickname online for the Go To Campaign.

And despite the rapidly rising tide of infections, the government is showing no signs of cancelling this plan before it takes effect in a few days. With the tourism industry in Japan in dire straits, it’s hard to completely disagree with them.

Still, the way things are going it’s really starting to look like Japan might not be able to hold onto it’s reputation of “a country that handled the pandemic well” for much longer.

Source: McDonald’s Japan, Hachima Kiko
Photos: ©SoraNews24
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