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Visitors at the Power Station of Art must get their temperatures taken before entry. Photo: Power Station of Art, Shanghai.

As Coronavirus Spread Slows in Asia, Museums Begin to Reopen

Museums in China, South Korea, and Japan are beginning to cautiously reopen after months of being in lockdown. The number of new cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in China, where the first outbreak occurred in Wuhan in December 2019, has started to dwindle—the country’s health authority said that only eight new infections were reported on Thursday, March 12. While the number of confirmed cases is still over eighty thousand, officials seem to believe that the epidemic has reached its peak in the mainland. For the first time since January 20, South Korea, which currently has eight thousand cases, said that the number of patients released from treatment on Friday, March 13 (510) outnumbered the new cases (110). While the number of cases in Japan continues to increase, as of now the number of people sickened is under seven hundred.

Among the institutions that have begun welcoming visitors again are the Power Station of Art, the China Art Museum, and the Shanghai Museum—all of which have been shuttered since late January. The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) in South Korea is planning on reopening its four locations on March 23, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo and the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art in Aichi, Japan, will work toward reopening by the end of the month.

According to the Art Newspaper, the cultural institutions looking to re-invite the public are working around the clock to sanitize their facilities and will implement strict new measures. A representative of the Power Station informed the publication that it will take visitors’ temperatures and require them to present an ID card with a registered health code before allowing them entry. Other new policies include only admitting visitors who prebooked and who bring face masks. They are also asking guests to stand five feet away from other people.

While many protocols are being put in place to ensure people’s safety, some of them—including a new health tracking app that records users’ recent travel history—are being severely criticized. The Guardian reports that the software, which assigns people different colors based on how much time they’ve spent in areas where there are a concentrated number of cases, will soon allow users to see other users’ colors. One man complained about the app’s accuracy, saying that his color changed after he drove through an outbreak area. Another concern is that officials are using the coronavirus as grounds to mass-collect personal data.

Tiffany Yun, an MMCA spokesperson, told the Art Newspaper that for the museum’s reopening it will roll out a new timed reservation system. It will also cap the number of people per hour permitted on each floor in each of its venues, “as a prolonged shutdown would create a bad atmosphere for the economy and society. I think it would be better for the nation’s cultural and artistic museums and institutions, with thorough disinfection and management, to open their facilities first,” she added.

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