Saturday, May 15, 2021

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As state of emergency lifted, crowds trickle back to Japan’s city streets


An uptick in foot traffic in the waning days of the two-and-a-half-month-long state of emergency, which was lifted for Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures on Sunday, has prompted calls for continued vigilance to prevent a resurgence of the novel coronavirus.

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A significant increase in the number of people at major train stations and central city areas was observed on Saturday, compared to the first weekend after the state of emergency was last renewed in January.

In response, the Tokyo metropolitan government and experts have urged the public to keep up their guard.

At a press conference on Sunday evening, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike reemphasized the ongoing need to take thorough measures against infection, saying, “Please be aware that we have now entered the rebound prevention stage, and ask for continued cooperation to avoid a fourth wave of infections.”

The moving average of new daily cases over the week leading up until Sunday came to 301.1, exceeding 300 for the first time in about a month since Feb. 23.

According to a mobile spatial statistics report compiled by NTT Docomo Inc., which estimates visitor numbers based on smartphone location information, the number of people in Shibuya Center-gai shopping street in Tokyo at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday was 13.6% lower than January and February last year before the surge in coronavirus cases. This figure was 25.7 points higher than the 39.3% drop observed on Jan. 9, the first Saturday after the declaration was reissued.

In some areas, the number of visitors had grown compared to before the surge in infections. Yokohama Station posted an increase of 18.5% and Chiba Station saw a 14% increase, a reversal of the decreased footfall observed at both stations in January (16.7% and 3.7% respectively).

Koji Wada, a professor of public health at the International University of Health and Welfare, said, “As we enter the season of cherry blossom viewing and welcome and farewell parties, we can assume more people will be gathering in groups to dine together. I would like to ask everyone to keep the number of participants at a minimum and to refrain from attending if you are feeling unwell. Even though the state of emergency has been lifted, it is important for each and every one of us to live our lives with an awareness to prevent the fourth wave from occurring.”

Published : March 23, 2021

By : The Japan News/ANN