ICU's Response to the 'Declaration of a State of Emergency'
Update: January 12, 2021
1. Continuing with the current modes of teaching
In an attempt to ease the spread of the new corona virus, the government has declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures. The new measures do not apply directly to educational institutions and, since we are being urged to come up with an appropriate combination of face-to-face and online teaching, we plan to continue with the modes of instruction as outlined in our announcement issued at the beginning of the Winter term.
Since the majority of our teaching is being conducted in either a hybrid or online format (with the exception of PE and some practical classes which are being delivered face-to-face), University have concluded that this represents only a minor cause for concern for those who are worried by the spread of the virus. As such, we shall not be moving to an "all online" mode of teaching. (For your information, we are currently teaching 68% of classes online, 24% hybrid and 8% face-to-face).
On the other hand, given the rapid spread of the virus, we are making some adjustments to our non-teaching activities. These are outlined as follows.
2. Revision of our Business Continuity Plan
Here at ICU we have created a Business Continuity Plan as a manual containing our plans for countering COVID-19. We previously adjusted sections of this Plan as appropriate in response to the declaration of the state of emergency. But since the contents of the current declaration are different from those of last April, we have revised the levels and the contents to enable us to respond to the new circumstances.
- Guidelines for Activities to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Update: January 12, 2021
As of January 8, 2021, we are currently at Level 2 of the new version of the BCP.
There are 4 levels to the 'Stages of infection' document issued by the government. If the infection rate reaches 15 per 100,000 this will constitute Level 3; if it rises to 25 per 100,000, this will rise to Level 4. In the week leading up to 6 January, the figure was 54.28, and so Tokyo is currently in stage 4 (explosive spread of infection).
3. Closure of all recreational facilities to all faculty, staff and students
Until recently, we were at stage 1 on both the old and new versions of the BCP. The major change necessitated by the move to stage 2 is in relation to outdoor student activity. From January 12, we shall be replacing the former guideline whereby "some extracurricular activities are permitted with due caution to prevent spread of infection" to the following: "All face-to-face activity, whether inside or outside, is prohibited. No university facilities may be used except for teaching purposes. This includes individual use of facilities". This applies to faculty and staff wishing to use the facilities (i.e. the pool and tennis courts will be closed).
These measures are harsh, but we are aware that, outside the University, all kinds of restrictions are being placed on restaurants, bars, theaters and other venues in an attempt to stem the spread the of the disease and they need to cooperate in a positive manner. The same applies to activities within the University.
It goes without saying that the University is a place, not just for learning, but where human interaction is encouraged through club activities, etc. However, at this time we need to prioritize the need to prevent the spread of the disease and so we are obliged to prohibit all face-to-face activity whilst we remain in Level 2 of our BCP. Of course, online activities are not affected by these guidelines.
4. In conclusion
For us non-specialists, it is unclear whether this explosive spread of the infectious disease is due to the fact that we are now in Winter and the spread has been facilitated by the colder weather, whether a new variant of the virus is leading to an increased infection ratio, whether the increased movement of people over the recent New Year period has led to a rise in the numbers - or whether there is some other factor at play here. And we need to wait and see in a couple of weeks whether the rate of infection is on the decrease or whether, in spite of the new restrictions, it continues to rise.
In any case, let us heed the advice of the experts and take effective measures to prevent the spread of the virus and, in a sense, by taking a stand against the illogical consequences of this virus, let us come together as one.
Allow me to finish by citing Pascal, who wrote: "All the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own room" (Blaise Pascal, Pensées).
Shoichiro Iwakiri, President