The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

We’ve been looking forward to 2020 for a long time. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games were certain to herald an eruption of good fortune in business and excitement in general. But there has been an outbreak of something else instead: coronavirus. So far, the year is not turning out as planned.

Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, has rapidly spread throughout China and much of world. The impact on business has been sudden and strong. As I sat down to write this column, reports were coming in that the Dow Jones Industrial Average had plummeted 1,031 points on concerns over covid-19. That’s a 3.1-percent drop—one of the largest single-day losses ever and the worst since February 2018.

HIT THE BREAKS
With the situation changing rapidly, I paused to see what would happen over the few days remaining before print. And a lot has. The Dow has fluctuated while finishing with losses for five straight sessions, shedding more than 2,000 points.

Global supply chains have been disrupted and manufacturing facilities closed in China, causing companies such as Apple Inc. to adjust their revenue guidance for the next quarter and look for alternate sources of parts and locations for production.

On the afternoon of February 26, the Japanese government asked organizers of large sports and cultural events to cancel them for the next two weeks. Almost immediately, we received notifications that concerts, exhibitions, and other events—some scheduled to start just hours after the government request—had been called off.

A cloud of uncertainty has also settled over Tokyo 2020. The negative impact on Japan’s economy would be immense should the Games be canceled or moved to another city. London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey took to Twitter on February 20 to say that the host of the 2012 Games is ready to step in again.

FAMILY MATTERS
While the business and economic impact is real and significant, we should not over­look the effect covid-19 may have on our personal lives. Speaking of London, my son is there now for a six-week study abroad program. He is scheduled to return on March 27, but I can’t predict what changes to his plans the outbreak might cause.

This morning, a friend from the United States sent me a message saying that his planned business trip to Tokyo has been canceled because his company has banned all travel to Japan. I suspect such policies will become more common and lead to an eco­nomic slowdown.

One thing is certain: the situation will change tomorrow. But, for now, we have worked to find out how the early stages are impacting business and education. You’ll find my story about study abroad concerns starting on page 38.

Here’s wishing you safe and healthy days ahead—for family and business

Christopher Bryan Jones is Editor-in-Chief of The ACCJ Journal. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he has lived in Japan since 1997.