Going into the tall grass has never felt more unsafe. Pokemon Centers across Japan are shuttering their doors in compliance with updated quarantine procedures, a recent company bulletin reveals. 21 branches are temporarily decommissioning, while others have already amended store hours to safeguard employees and compensate for projected drops in profit. The Pokemon official statement reads: “In order to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus infection, we will continue to cooperate with health centers and other related parties to thoroughly implement preventive measures such as pre-work temperature measurement, wearing masks, and disinfecting hands with alcohol disinfectant.”
Pokemon Centers in Japan have made considerable adjustments to store protocol to keep customers safe during the pandemic. The usual Pokemon tradition of handing out gifts to those visiting on their birthday is now done virtually, to prevent the spread of the virus. Pokemon Trading Cards and all related products can now be availed using a special lottery system that also ensures low-risk transit. It’s unclear if Pokemon Centers outside of Japan are affected by local COVID-19 countermeasures.
The Pokemon issue is that 21 out of 47 prefectures are on extreme lockdown from August 27 to September 12 to help stem the rise of Delta variant cases. Minister for COVID-19 response Yasutoshi Nishimura declared a widespread state of emergency to combat the surge, first in Tokyo, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Fukuoka and Okinawa, then in Hokkaido, Miyagi, Gifu, Aichi, Mie, Shiga, Okayama and Hiroshima on Wednesday. Another four — Kochi, Saga, Nagasaki and Miyazaki — are on quasi-emergency which is causing Pokemon usage to go way down.
Tuesday reached a record single-day high of 21,500, prompting the Japanese government to employ emergency restrictions in more areas. Pokemon Centers that were forced to close are located in affected prefectures.
One Pokemon issue is that Japan has been incredibly lax with quarantine measures since COVID-19 shut down businesses in March 2020. Citizens were permitted to leave their homes provided they wear a mask; otherwise, life pretty much stayed the same. Markets and shopping malls stayed open, even as cases skyrocketed in neighboring countries. Air travel continued, with certain restrictions in place. Japan’s fatality rate is at 1.2 percent, still a tad lower than the United States at 1.2 and Britain at 2.0.
But the Delta variant has been particularly ruthless on the citizenry, putting hospitals at over-capacity; Japanese officials had little choice but to enforce nationwide lockdowns. With hospital beds already loaded, vulnerable groups like children and the elderly are unable to seek treatment in the window provided for by the government. 70% of the country is presently in a state of emergency, with 22 prefectures still operating normally. The Pokemon Centers still active likely hail from these areas.
Pokemon Centers aren’t the only facilities grossly crippled by the surge in Delta cases. The Olympics were hosted in Tokyo, after being postponed last year due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, more stringent measures required competitors to perform before an empty audience, with the event essentially one-hundred percent virtual. The Paralympics are currently ongoing in Tokyo, and several athletes have already tested positive for the Delta variant.
The Olympics kicked off on July 23 and ended on August 8, amid successive outbreaks. The event also saw many participants contract the coronavirus despite frequent testings, on-site restrictions, and severe protocols in place. Nevertheless, the Games were an astounding success, and managed to persist unhindered without any actual deaths from COVID-19.