Municipal workers in the Japanese city of Aizuwakamatsu hoisted a 77-pound mask onto the face of a giant Buddhist goddess statue on Tuesday as part of a prayer by the local Buddhist temple asking for an end to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported on Thursday.
"It took four workers three hours to carry the massive mask on ropes up the 57 m[eter]-high (187 ft) white statue of the Buddhist goddess Kannon - the Goddess of Mercy - at the Houkokuji Aizu Betsuin temple in Fukushima Prefecture," according to Reuters.
"They then unfurled the mask made with pink net fabric, measuring 4.1 m[eters] by 5.3 m[eters] and weighing 35 kg (77 pounds), across the lower half of the statue's face," the news agency detailed.
The manager of Houkokuji Aizu Betsuin temple, Takaomi Horigane, told Reuters local workers "came up with the idea for the face mask in discussions on the restoration of the statue after it was damaged in an earthquake in February."
The temple's keepers plan to leave the mask on the statue until Japan's coronavirus situation stabilizes, according to Horigane.
The Houkokuji Aizu Betsuin temple built its Kannon statute in 1988 in Aizuwakamatsu, a city located about 160 miles north of Tokyo on Japan's Honshu island. The towering statue "is hollow with a spiral staircase that can be climbed to the height of the goddess' shoulder," according to Reuters. "People visit the statue, which is holding a baby, to pray for the safe delivery of babies and to ask for blessings for their newborns."
The rate of infections caused by the Chinese coronavirus has declined across Japan in recent weeks following months of surges and lockdowns, Kyodo News reported on Thursday. Japanese health officials recorded 1,554 new cases of the disease on June 17, according to the news site, "down from more than 7,000 daily at the peak of the fourth wave in early to mid-May."
Japan's federal government announced plans on June 17 to lift Chinese coronavirus "state of emergency" orders in Tokyo and eight other prefectures on June 20. The decision comes as the country prepares to host the Tokyo Olympics starting July 23.
"In addition to the capital, the state of emergency will end on Sunday [June 20] in Hokkaido, Aichi, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima and Fukuoka," Kyodo News reported.
"Okinawa will be the only prefecture to remain under the state of emergency until July 11 as its hospitals remain strained by the surge in COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] patients," the Japanese news outlet noted.
"Tokyo and six of the prefectures will shift to a quasi-state of emergency until July 11. Okayama and Hiroshima, where the situation has improved to the point that the designation is no longer required, will see restrictions lifted after Sunday [June 20]," Kyodo News reported.
"Under the quasi-state of emergency, which allows targeted measures for specific areas rather than entire prefectures, serving alcohol, currently prohibited, will be allowed until 7:00 p.m. as long as certain COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] precautions are in place [sic]," the news site added. "Governors can choose to maintain the ban if they deem it necessary, however, and restaurants will continue to be asked to close by 8:00 p.m."