Today, Osaka posted its highest daily number of covid-19 cases: 719. This is the eighth straight day that covid-19 cases have been increasing in the prefecture. The numbers are also climbing in the surrounding areas.
Online in Japan, some commenters online are worried about covid-19's spread in Osaka, especially in regards to Universal Studios Japan which is located in the prefecture and opened on March 18.
The theme park had been delayed twice due to the pandemic. When the park finally opened, Kotaku wrote, “Although Osaka lifted the state of emergency earlier this month (Tokyo is currently still under one), with people congregating, waiting inside, and eating in restaurants, obviously covid-19 is still a concern.”
Universal Studios Japan listed the safety measures it’s taken during the pandemic. Attendees must wear masks and disinfect their hands.
However, with cases continuing to increase to their highest daily number in Osaka, the park announced this week that it is dramatically restricting the number of visitors to 5,000 a day from its previous restriction of 20,000. Late last month, Universal Studio Japan marked its 20th anniversary with the slogan “No Limit,” but did impose an array of limits on itself, including refraining from holding any massive events.
The commercial does seem rather oblivious to the current situation. (I also wonder when they filmed it!) The same goes for the new Easter Celebration commercial, which also seems unaware that this is a global pandemic and that Easter is over.
Why are the numbers increasing in Osaka? One theory is due to variants in the prefecture. According to Mainichi News, the local government stated that “many confirmed infections are from people who went on trips, or attended farewell parties at the end of the financial year.”
Universal Studios Japan opened Super Nintendo World after the state of emergency was ended in Osaka. At the time, I was somewhat surprised considering how risk-averse Nintendo can sometimes seem. What happens if there’s a cluster or an outbreak at Super Nintendo World? Isn’t that bad for the company’s image? Nintendo’s official promotional photos for the theme park area do feature people in masks, which seems more responsible than the USJ advertisement campaign.
“Even though we looked at (various scientific) indicators before lifting the state of emergency, there is some possibility of criticism that we should have forecasted the status of variants,” Makoto Shimoaraiso, a Cabinet Secretariat official for Japan’s COVID-19 response, is quoted as saying. The UK variant is currently spreading in Osaka and causing much more serious cases than before. “The fourth wave is going to be larger,” said Koji Wada, a government advisor and professor at Tokyo’s International University of Health and Welfare. Vaccines are not yet widely available in Japan.
Mainichi News reports that with the cases increasing in Osaka, the prefecture is set to reach the “red light” phase of its emergency warning system. This occurs when hospital bed occupancy reaches 70 percent for serious covid-19 patients (currently it’s at 63.8 percent). “The usage rate of hospital beds for serious patients is on a constant rise, it’s almost a straight line up,” said Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura. “We’ll have to issue a health care system state of emergency declaration within days.”
Osaka City has requested the cancellation of its participation in the Olympic torch relay leg (this is still expected to be held outside the city in Osaka Prefecture).
On Twitter as well as on popular sites Hachima Kikou and Girls Channel, some commenters have been expressing concern for Super Nintendo World and Universal Studios Japan with the uptick in cases. Some are even pointing the finger. Below is a cross-section of some of the comments translated into English:
“There’s a theory that the high increase of covid-19 cases in Osaka are due to USJ’s Mario.”
“These people are morons. Disney is doing a better job. I’ll never go to USJ again.”
“I do wonder how many coronavirus cases increased due to Mario.”
“I went twice during spring break, and [Super] Nintendo [World] was really fun. I stayed safe the best I could and didn’t go into Osaka city.”
“People are coming from all over the country.”
“Would the source for this be USJ? They just opened over there.”
“Opening the Mario area was a bad call.”
“If you think about all the people working at Universal Studios, and all the people working there through subcontracted labor, I can get why they don’t shut the place down due to the coronavirus.”
“USJ is trying hard [to take social distancing steps].”
“When I saw photos of the grand opening, there were people all bunched up around the gate, and it didn’t look possible to practice social distancing.”
“USJ’s theme this year is ‘No Limit.’ As for the rising cases in Osaka as the opening of Nintendo World is being called the source, this theme which is shown in TV commercials in which people are clearly no practicing social distancing is, I thought, a bit much... Yes, I imagine they have production costs and contracts, and I love USJ, but as one would expect, considering the timing, there’s no choice but to think this looks rather insensitive.”
“I wonder if Tokyo Disney is okay...”
“I was told this was Mario’s fault, and then I thought about it a little and, yeah, who knows, perhaps.”
“I really want to go to Super Nintendo World. Fucking covid.”