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Tokyo quiet as people return to work under extended emergency

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    Kyodo News

Tokyo, Japan   /   Thu, May 7, 2020   /   04:50 pm
Tokyo quiet as people return to work under extended emergency Municipal employees patrol a street asking people to stay home amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Tokyo on May 4, 2020. - Japan's government is expected to extend its nationwide state of emergency to the end of May as it braces for a lengthy battle against the coronavirus pandemic. (AFP/CHARLY TRIBALLEAU )

Major stations in Tokyo and its vicinity remained quiet Thursday with a limited number of people commuting on the first workday after the long Golden Week holiday under the extended state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic.

Many people showed an understanding of the government's decision on Monday to extend the state of emergency to the end of the month from the originally scheduled expiration on Wednesday in a bid to reduce new infections in Japan amid nascent signs of the outbreak leveling off.

But others said they are stressed by restrictions put in place under the declaration -- originally issued on April 7 -- such as stay-at-home and business closure requests that have dealt a blow to economic activity.

"There was no choice but to extend" the state of emergency, Osamu Tomura, a 58-year-old bank employee, said, adding that he wants the government to set steps toward lifting the measures.

"I want (the government) to set thorough measures so that efforts by people complying (with the government requests) are rewarded," he said.

Under the extended state of emergency decided during the roughly weeklong holiday period, the government has continued to ask people to avoid nonessential outings.

Few people were seen walking near Tokyo Station on Thursday morning, and those that were mostly wearing face masks.

A 44-year-old man said, however, it appeared there were more people around the station than before the Golden Week holiday.

He said he is worried about the impact of the prolonged stay-at-home request on his two children -- one in elementary school and the other in junior high school.

"They cannot take part in extracurricular activities (at school) and are building up stress staying at home. I am concerned about their physical and mental health if this continues for long," he said.

While the man has been working mostly from home, he said it is hard to stay motivated without knowing when life can return to normal.

"I want the government to quickly give us a target for lifting the measures," he said.

For businesses in areas with few reported cases of infection, closures and limited opening hours ended Thursday as local governments eased such restrictions.

Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan is one such area.

As a pachinko parlor near JR Sendai Station in the prefectural capital reopened, a 69-year-old man who entered welcomed the move.

"I'm glad because I had nothing to do. I was watching TV throughout the holidays," he said.

The central prefecture of Nagano reduced the scope of businesses subject to closure requests, allowing theaters and leisure facilities to reopen. But it asked restaurants to maintain shortened operating hours until May 15.

"If restaurants start operating as usual I will be able to eat outside more casually," said Mari Takashima, 27, in the city of Iida.

In Kumamoto, southwestern Japan, entertainment businesses remained closed. Some operators in the sector visited the city office to apply for subsidies to help them stay afloat in the meantime.

In Sapporo, 43-year-old Chiharu Kobayashi was taking her 1-year-old daughter Chiho for a walk in a park while the Hokkaido capital maintained all restrictions under the state of emergency after seeing a large number of infections.

"She told me to take her outside so we came out while there are not many people," Kobayashi said.


If you want to help in the fight against COVID-19, we have compiled an up-to-date list of community initiatives designed to aid medical workers and low-income people in this article. Link: [UPDATED] Anti-COVID-19 initiatives: Helping Indonesia fight the outbreak