Japan's government eased Monday its 10,000-spectator attendance limit for large-scale events, such as professional sports games and concerts, which was in place in 27 of the country's 47 prefectures, as part of its bid to restore social and economic activities amid a steady decline in coronavirus cases.
Events held across Japan can now have 5,000 spectators or 50 percent of venue capacity, whichever is larger, with large-scale event spaces allowed to accept more than 10,000 spectators in Tokyo and other regions that were under a state of emergency or a quasi-state of emergency through September.
Meanwhile, events that will see spectators shouting and cheering will be capped at 50 percent of venue capacity. Prefectural governors can also implement their own policies on spectator limits depending on the situation of infections in their areas.
Whether an event is likely to involve shouting by spectators will be decided on a case by case basis.
While concerns remain over a possible resurgence of infections, organizers of sports games and concerts have started preparing to accommodate more fans at events.
The Yakult Swallows professional baseball club sold tickets beforehand to welcome about 14,500 spectators, about half of the capacity at its Jingu Stadium in Tokyo, to the team's final regular season game against the Hiroshima Carp on Monday night.
During the Climax Series playoffs starting later this month, Yakult plans to sell up to around 20,000 tickets per game. The event has been selected for the government's program to test admission of people showing proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test result.
In the country's pro soccer J-League, 10 matches are scheduled Wednesday, including one between Yokohama F Marinos and Gamba Osaka at Nissan Stadium where the organizers aim to admit around 30,000 fans.
Over 20,000 tickets have been sold for the match at the 72,000-capacity stadium in Yokohama. The match is expected to draw the largest crowd in the J-League first division this season.
Meanwhile, a senior official of a music association, which consists of promotion companies that organize concerts, said the group welcomes the easing of the restrictions and will begin preparing to admit larger crowds at events by selling additional tickets and holding discussions with municipalities where venues are located.
"We will continue to work hard to prevent infections so our guests can feel at ease," the senior official of the All Japan Concert and Live Entertainment Promoters Conference said in a statement.
The government fully lifted a coronavirus state of emergency and quasi-state of emergency on Oct. 1 following a decline in COVID cases. But the areas that were under the measures had to limit attendance to a maximum of 10,000 for about a month as the government gradually lifted restrictions.
On Monday, coronavirus restrictions on eateries were lifted in Okinawa, the final prefecture to do so since the state of emergency ended a month ago.
Restaurants and bars in Okinawa are no longer subject to curbs on the serving of alcohol and operating hours. But the prefectural government is asking people to eat out or drink in groups of up to four people and limit their time at such establishments.
Japan saw record numbers of coronavirus cases during this summer's fifth wave of infections. The Tokyo Olympics were held without spectators at most venues in order to prevent the spread of infections.