Coronavirus fears hit mahjong [Update: 2nd March]
[Scroll down to the bottom for updates]
Nothing has been able to avoid the Coronavirus crisis; from holidays to work measures are being taken to try to curtail or slow the progress of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, from spreading through the global population.
Fortunately, it hasn’t yet prevented any events from taking place in Europe and the Americas yet, but China and Japan, being closer to the epicenter of the outbreak, have been forced to take measures.
Extreme measures in Wuhan
China has suffered the worst of the virus, and placed several large urban areas on complete lockdown. The authorities have also banned public meetings, including mahjong. Not all tile addicts have taken heed of the warning, leading public order enforcers to take some drastic measures.
It seems extreme but considering the serious health and economic consequences the disease has had in China, authorities are anxious to get its spread under control.
NPM and Saikouisen cancel/postpone events
In the interests of the safety of their members and their fans, Nihon Pro Mahjong Association (Kyokai/NPM) and Saikouisen have both canceled or postponed multiple events. Scheduling in the mahjong world is done months in advance and with the sheer number of events, rescheduling can be difficult. We can expect knock-on effects for the rest of the year.
JPML takes precautions
The Japan Professional Mahjong League (Renmei/JPML) has not canceled any events to date. However, they have been distributing messages to members asking them to stay at home if they’re showing any signs of flu, and are warning players that there may be cancellations depending on official advice.
Problems farther afield?
As Europe battles clusters of the repiratory sickness, it remains to be seen whether the progression of the disease will negatively impact the tournament schedule. Most health organization recommendations only advise against travel to China and seriously affected locales. There is no blanket advice against travel, and no reports of any players canceling their short-term plans.
With new cases reported in Austria, Spain, and Switzerland today, this is very much a constantly evolving situation. Players would be recommended to keep an eye on official government advice and tournament websites.
It goes without saying that we should all be practising good hygiene. However, making sure you wash your hands with warm soapy water, avoiding contact with sick people, and using tissues to catch coughs an sneezes remains the best preventative measure against the disease.
For mahjong players, now might be a good chance to clean your tiles with warm soapy water, too. Most Japanese mahjong parlors clean their tiles between sessions. Now might be a good time to get in the habit!
[Update 26th February 2020]
JPML has announced that it is reducing its working hours and that there will be no guest professionals attending from Friday at their Sugamo dojo. This action has been taken in response to Prime Minister Abe’s request that sporting and cultural events be postponed or downsized for two weeks.
[Update 27th February 2020]
M-League have also now canceled their public viewings as part of the greater drive in Japan to slow the progress of the disease.
This will not impact the regular M-league game schedule.
[Update 2nd March 2020]
Mahjong parlours placed on government list as places to avoid in respect to preventing the Coronavirus spread.
The government is advising people to avoid cramped areas to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus and inevitably, mahjong gets a mention. No word on specific mahjong chains but we will keep our eye out and report back if so.