Japan cuts 100,000 tulips to keep the coronavirus distance

TOKYO (Reuters) - Flower lovers in Japan will have to wait until next year to tip-toe through the tulips after a park razed more than 100,000 stems to comply with social-distancing rules to help control the coronavirus.

Officials in the city of Sakura, 50 km east of Tokyo, mowed the tulip beds at “Sakura Furusato Hiroba” and cancelled an annual tulip festival to discourage people from congregating after a coronavirus emergency was declared last week.

“Many visitors came on the weekend when the flowers were in full bloom. It became a mass gathering so we had no choice but to make the decision to cut the flowers,” said Sakiho Kusano, a city tourism official.

Japan’s tally of coronavirus infections stood at 11,500 on Wednesday.

Despite the absence of the pink and red flowers that usually carpet the 7,000-square-metre tulip gardens at this time of year, the park is drawing a smattering of visitors.

“It’s very, very, very unfortunate. My mood sank when I saw this,” 77-year-old visitor Misako Yonekubo said on Wednesday.

The cut flowers were donated to kindergartens.

Reporting by Akira Tomoshige, Akiko Okamoto; Writing by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Robert Birsel