Japan adjusts to life after state of emergency

NHK -- Mar 23
For the first time in ten weeks, no part of Japan is under a coronavirus state of emergency. But it's far from business as usual with officials and some companies introducing measures to guard against a new surge.

The last remaining declaration, for the Tokyo area, has expired. It saw an 80 percent drop in cases, but a slow movement upward has some people on edge.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government confirmed 187 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, a huge drop from earlier in the year.

But, the daily average for the week rose by about 5 percent.

Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko said, "We have to realize that we cannot afford to see a rebound in the number of cases."

Tokyo is keeping some anti-infection measures in place, including encouraging businesses to allow teleworking.

It's also asking bars and restaurants to close by 9 p.m., one hour later than under the state of emergency.

Many say they're doing what they can to stay afloat and make customers feel safe.

A steak house owner in Tokyo said, "Our goal is to keep the restaurant bustling with customers, while preventing infections."

Businesses hoping for a boost from foreign tourists will have to wait a bit longer.

Stringent measures remain in place at the border and it is unclear when they will be eased.

But, major sightseeing spots in and around Tokyo hope to see an increase in domestic travel.

It's graduation season and many students seem ready for an escape.

A high school student who came to Hakone mountain resort near Tokyo said, "We have been saying we wanted to go to Kyoto for a long time, but we couldn't. Instead we came here, and we enjoyed it."

Bullet train stations have prepared for the potential uptick in passengers.

A station in Osaka is checking travelers from the capital, as part of an effort to stop coronavirus infections from spreading across prefectural borders.

Osaka prefectural official Koike Shigekazu said, "With the start of the new fiscal year, this is a peak period. With cases rebounding, the start of a fourth wave is in sight. We hope people will follow basic anti-infection measures, thoroughly."

Across Japan, more than 800 new cases and over 30 deaths have been reported, so far on Monday.

Cases are going up in some parts of the country.

The weekly average for Osaka, where an emergency declaration was lifted last month, is up 34 percent.

Hyogo's weekly average is up nearly 50 percent. And, in Miyagi, the figure doubled.

In response, Miyagi is asking bars and restaurants in the prefectural capital to close early for the next three weeks.