Coronavirus

No PDA. Masks in Strip Clubs. Here Are Some of the Weird Ways Asia Is Preventing COVID-19.

The coronavirus outbreak remains a universal problem across Asia, but some of the ways countries are dealing with it are very unique.
23 July 2020, 8:50am
weird-coronavirus-covid-rules-asia
Photo: Henri Pham on Unsplash

This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.

More than seven months after the start of the COVID-19 outbreaks, businesses around Asia are slowly starting to resume operations and attempting to adapt to the new normal. But while the coronavirus is a universal problem, the solutions have been varied.

Some countries are sticking to tried and tested methods: social distancing rules, contact tracing, encouraging face masks, etc. Others, however, are coming up with completely different protocols—some, weirder than others.

From a “no kissing” guideline in Tokyo bars, to Bangkok requiring strippers to wear face masks, below are some of the most unusual COVID-19 prevention rules in Asia.

No popcorn in China’s movie theatres

After closing for nearly six months, cinemas in many parts of China started welcoming moviegoers again on Tuesday. But for those who can’t visit the theatre without a tub of buttery popcorn, the wait is going to be a lot longer.

According to the China Film Administration, cinemas in low-risk areas can reopen, but with some crucial caveats: only 30 percent of seats can be occupied at any given time, everyone must wear a facemask, and those who go in groups cannot sit in adjacent seats or be less than a meter away from any other individuals. And one other thing—food and drinks are banned. That means no sipping on soda, and definitely no popcorn.

As of press time, China had reported just under 84,000 coronavirus cases and more than 4,600 deaths.

No food and drinks for Hong Kong’s Weddings

Hong Kong was one of the first territories to successfully manage the coronavirus, reporting consecutive days of zero new cases as early as April. But the city has seen a third wave of cases emerge in July, pushing it to establish stricter rules. The government recently announced new social distancing and virus-prevention measures, including mandatory mask-wearing, Hong Kong Disneyland has been closed, and gatherings have been limited to four people.

Limits on gatherings also extend to weddings, which can now only be attended by up to 20 people. And unlike your standard wedding, guests won’t be treated to an open bar after. According to the new rules, food and drinks are not allowed, which means no dinner, no champagne toast, and no cake.

Hong Kong has recorded a total of more than 2,100 coronavirus cases and 14 deaths.

No kissing in Tokyo’s bars

Since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the country’s lockdown on May 25, businesses of all kinds have slowly been reopening. This includes bars and restaurants in the Tokyo nightlife hub of Shinjuku, which has been operating since early June, even though it was once the site of a coronavirus cluster.

To help protect nightlife workers, Litera Japan, a risk management group, created a campaign called “Cheer For The Nightlife District,” with a group of advocates to create guidelines for customers to follow. Among the more commonsense guidelines is one odd one: no kissing—at least not anyone you haven’t kissed before. The rule asks people to only kiss their partner, and to refrain from kissing fellow customers, hosts, or hostesses, and to “avoid deep kisses.” The guideline, questionably, also says that those who just can’t resist should ask their kissing partner to drink water first—purportedly to decrease the potential for the coronavirus lurking in their mouth—and to gargle post-smooch.

Iwamuro Shinya, a public health doctor who contributed to writing the guidelines, recognised that people can’t avoid going out given Japan’s more or less mandatory culture of post-work team-building drinks. But he said the no-kissing guideline, along with others like disinfecting karaoke microphones, should help limit the spread of the virus.

No screaming on roller coasters in Japan

Another unusual rule from Japan is the “no screaming on roller coasters” guideline set by several theme park associations. While some may have wondered whether such a rule was even possible to follow, the amusement park Fuji-Q Highland sought to put any doubts to rest by posting a video showing company executives riding a roller coaster while keeping a perfectly straight face. They even challenged visitors to #KeepASeriousFace and to “scream inside their heart.”

Japan has so far reported just under 26,000 coronavirus cases and almost 1,000 deaths.

No talking in Singapore’s public transportation

On May 19, even before its nationwide lockdown was lifted, the Singaporean government announced that commuters must refrain from talking while on public transport to avoid spreading droplets of saliva in an enclosed space. This includes not talking to others on the same train or bus and avoiding phone calls. Singapore lifted its nationwide lockdown on June 1 and some establishments have slowly been reopening, but the no-talking rule is still in place.

More than 48,700 coronavirus cases and 27 deaths have been reported in Singapore.

In Thailand, strippers wear face masks

On July 1, Bangkok’s famous red-light districts reopened after more than three months of shutdown with some brand new rules, including one that completely changes the dynamic of the topless hostess bars the areas are known for: dancers now have to wear bikinis and face masks.

Perhaps even more controversially for some would-be johns, upon entering, all customers must have their temperature taken and provide their name and phone number. Inside the clubs, people must sit at least one meter apart and two meters away from the stage. The bars also must close by midnight.

Although Thailand has extended its state of emergency until July 31, the country’s battle against the coronavirus has so far been quite successful. There have been no local transmissions for the last 35 days, and most daily cases have been imported.

Thailand has reported 3,261 coronavirus cases and 58 deaths.

In the Philippines, only couples can enjoy joint motorcycle rides

In the Philippines, many who can’t afford to buy a car opt for motorcycles, with many others hitching rides with family or friends. This stopped after the government banned “back riding,” or having more than one person on a motorcycle, as part of its social distancing measures. Many who rely on shared motorcycles have found it difficult to get to work and run errands and so, in early July, the government said that people can start sharing rides again—but only if you’re a couple.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año defined a couple as those “living in the same household, whether they are married or they are common-law husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend.”

Couples must also prove that they live together by presenting IDs showing they have the same address.

The Philippines has recorded almost 71,000 coronavirus cases and more than 1,800 deaths.

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