Tokyo authorities on Friday announced that the Japanese capital would enter the second phase of a plan to gradually ease restrictions to contain the coronavirus from next week, as the number of cases has been decreasing over time.
After Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government lifted the emergency, local authorities have modified their guidelines to gradually return to normalcy.
In Tokyo, the phase 1 of the reopening from May 25 led to bars and restaurants being allowed to function until 10 pm, although cinema halls and theatres continued to be closed and business activities faced some restrictions.
Under phase 2 from Monday, private academies for extra-curricular activities will start functioning again and cinemas and theatres will also be able to open their doors, while businesses would be allowed to open without any restrictions.
However, places like karaoke bars and “hostess bars”, considered most prone to infections, will continue to be closed for an indefinite duration.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a month-long state of emergency on April 7 in Tokyo and six other urban prefectures and later expanded it to the whole country through May 31.
During a press conference, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike urged continued cooperation from the citizens and said that everything depended on the will and behavior of people as long as no vaccines were available.
Earlier this week, Japan lifted a nationwide state of emergency over the coronavirus gradually reopening the world’s third-largest economy as government officials warned caution was still necessary to prevent another wave.
The Prime Minister also warned that people would have to adapt to a “new normal” and continue to avoid the “three Cs” — closed spaces, crowded places and close contact.
Japan’s state of emergency was significantly less restrictive than measures seen in parts of Europe and the United States.
It allowed governors to urge people stay at home and called on businesses to stay shut. But officials cannot compel citizens to comply, and there were no punishments for those who failed to do so.
Abe performed a rare U-turn on the cash handouts — initially announcing an entirely different policy — and is seen to have bungled another signature move to distribute masks to every household, which attracted widespread mockery.
According to the latest official data, around 17,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Japan, with 874 deaths.
Tokyo, a city of 14 million residents, has witnessed 5,194 cases and 299 deaths.