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Tokyo Archdiocese suspends public Masses as Covid-19 surges

In the past week, Japan has recorded over 16,000 cases per day on average, prompting an extension of the state of emergency

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: August 17, 2021 05:51 AM GMT

Updated: August 18, 2021 04:34 AM GMT

Tokyo Archdiocese suspends public Masses as Covid-19 surges

A woman pays respects to Japan's war dead at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Aug. 15 as Japan marked the 76th anniversary of the end of World War II. (Photo: AFP)

Tokyo Archdiocese has suspended public Masses until Sept. 12 as Covid-19 cases continue to spread in Japan, especially in the capital and adjacent areas.

Archbishop Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo announced the new measures on Aug. 14 and they went into effect on Aug. 16.

During the four-week period, all public Masses are suspended. Masses in convents and religious houses are allowed provided there is no participation by those who are not members of the community, the prelate announced.

In the case of funerals, the announcement suggests that “after discussing with the bereaved family, they may proceed with cremation first and have the funeral Mass at a later date.”

The archbishop’s notice added that any “decision on whether to continue with this response will be announced on or before September 5.”

Similar to last year, during the period of suspension of public Masses, the archbishop’s Sunday Masses will be livestreamed through the YouTube channel of St. Mary’s Cathedral Church in Tokyo. Weekday Masses will also be broadcast from the channel.

While half of Japan’s more than 126 million people have received a first dose of vaccine, less than 40 percent are fully vaccinated

The measures in Tokyo Archdiocese came as Japan's government extended the Covid-19 state of emergency in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Osaka and Okinawa until Sept. 12. The earlier state of emergency was expected to expire at the end of August.

Media reports say a decision to place other areas including Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka prefectures under the state of emergency from Aug. 31 to Sept. 12 was expected to be declared on Aug. 17.

Meanwhile, 10 prefecture-level cities — Miyagi,  Toyama, Yamanashi, Gifu, Mie, Okayama, Hiroshima, Kagawa, Ehime and Kagoshima — will be under quasi-emergency from Aug. 20 to Sept. 12, reports Japan Times.  

In the past week, an average of more than 16,600 cases of the virus were reported nationwide each day, a 77 percent increase over the previous week.

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On Aug. 15, Tokyo recorded 4,295 new cases, according to official government data.

While half of Japan’s more than 126 million people have received a first dose of vaccine, less than 40 percent are fully vaccinated.

Japan has recorded 1.15 million cases and 15,423 deaths from Covid-19, according to Our World in Data. The government has struggled to contain the outbreak in major cities including Tokyo and has faced criticism for a sluggish vaccination drive.

The world’s third-largest economy has seen an economic rebound amid a recent surge in exports thanks to relaxing of restrictions in the West. After a 0.9 percent drop in the first quarter, economic output expanded 0.3 percent in the second quarter, The Guardian reported.

Analysts, however, warned that the rebound might be dampened in the third quarter amid surging new Covid cases and the extension of the state of emergency.

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