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Japan

Japanese Church keeps Covid guard up as Olympics near

Archbishop of Tokyo to maintain infection control measures despite the government lifting its state of emergency

UCA News reporter, Tokyo

UCA News reporter, Tokyo

Published: June 22, 2021 07:47 AM GMT

Updated: June 22, 2021 10:08 AM GMT

Japanese Church keeps Covid guard up as Olympics near

Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department officers conduct a security drill for foreign VIPs and athletes on June 22 ahead of the Olympic Games. The opening ceremony is scheduled to be held on July 23. (Photo: AFP)

Tokyo Archdiocese says it will maintain infection control measures despite the Japanese government having lifted the Covid-19 state of emergency in many cities ahead of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Japan announced the lifting of its third state of emergency on June 20 in nine prefecture-level cities. However, seven areas including Tokyo, the Olympics’ host city, and Osaka will remain under quasi-emergency measures until July 11. Only Okinawa Prefecture remains in a state of emergency.

The postponed Olympic Games are set to begin on July 23 and the Paralympics on Aug. 24. Japan has banned foreign spectators from attending the global sporting events, but the government will allow about 10,000 local spectators under strict health and physical distancing rules. 

Japan has seen a decline in new infections and deaths from the pandemic in recent days. On June 20, the country recorded 1,308 cases and 20 deaths from Covid-19, the Japan Times reported.

Besides the government, thousands of Japanese companies are distributing Covid-19 vaccines to workers and their families aiming to vaccinate about 13 million people. Government officials said some 3,500 companies have registered for free vaccines.

On June 21, Archbishop Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo said Catholics would remain on their guard following the government's easing of restrictions.

For the time being, the Church would like to continue the same infection control measures as before

The prelate noted that the number of positive cases and people with severe illnesses has been decreasing in Tokyo and other areas, adding that it might take some time before the majority of people are vaccinated.

Churches in Tokyo have not reported any Catholic deaths or spreading of the virus due to church activities, although some priests and Catholics have been infected as they were in close proximity to facilities for elderly people, he said.

The prelate warned that pandemic control measures will be in place in areas covered by Tokyo Archdiocese as it is expected that many people will visit the metropolitan area during the Olympics and Paralympics. 

“For the time being, the Church would like to continue the same infection control measures as before,” he said.

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As per the instructions, only a limited number of people will be allowed to enter churches and they have to keep a one-meter distance from each other. Without such a measure, church services cannot take place.

Churches must also ensure sufficient ventilation during Mass, while all Massgoers are urged to leave church premises promptly after Mass and should refrain from greeting and talking to one another.

The faithful are also requested to go the church in their own community and nowhere else. Each parish will keep track of Mass participants to follow instructions from the Health Ministry to tackle a situation in the event of an infection.    

The elderly and people with an illness are requested to stay and pray at home, and families need to ensure it. The obligation to participate in Sunday Mass is exempted for all persons in the parish, the archbishop said.

For a while, churchgoers are requested to refrain from singing or chanting prayers together

Appropriate health safety measures such as use of hand sanitizers, wearing of masks at all times and proper ventilation system should be maintained without exception.

For a while, churchgoers are requested to refrain from singing or chanting prayers together and to receive communion with disinfected hands 

Face-to-face activities such as meetings, meetings, gatherings and study sessions other than Mass should be online as much as possible. All are urged to refrain from communal events that involve eating and drinking.

Japan has recorded over 786,000 cases and more than 14,370 deaths from Covid-19.

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