After the anti-COVID-19 precaution provoked uproar on social media ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics, a Tokyo hotel has apologized and removed signs declaring “Japanese only” and “Foreigners only” from elevators.
On Monday, Tokyo declared a state of emergency, citing fears that an inflow of tens of thousands of players and officials during the Games, which run from July 23 to August 8, may spread the coronavirus, which is already causing outbreaks in the Japanese city.
Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu in downtown Tokyo put up the signs on Friday in response to guidance from Tokyo 2020 organizers to ensure the movements of guests related to the Games were separated from others staying at the hotel, a hotel official told Reuters on Monday.
The official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, said there was no intention to discriminate against foreigners.
“We tried to make it easy to understand but ended up causing misunderstanding,” the official said. He said the signs were removed on Sunday morning and the hotel was now discussing with its headquarters what expression to use instead.
The signs triggered harsh criticism on social media, with one Twitter user tweeting “Apartheid has been revived in Japan”.
Another likened the signs to U.S. “Jim Crow” measures, since struck down by courts, designed to keep Blacks from voting in the U.S. Deep South.
“The virus has nothing to do with nationality,” tweeted Twitter user Anna.
Japan has not seen the explosive coronavirus outbreak seen elsewhere but has recorded more than 815,440 cases and nearly 15,000 deaths. Tokyo alone recorded 614 new cases on Sunday, the 22nd straight day of week-on-week gains.
Japan’s vaccination rollout got off to a slow start and although it later accelerated, supply glitches are causing it to stumble. Only about 28% of the population have received at least one vaccine shot.