Monday, August 02, 2021

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Typical commuter crowds seen in Tokyo, 3 prefectures despite new state of emergency


The usual commuter crowds were seen in Tokyo and the prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo on Monday, the first weekday after a third state of emergency was declared for these areas amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The central and local governments have set a goal of reducing the number of people who commute to work by 70%, but no significant drop in commuters was seen at major stations in Tokyo and Osaka.

The new state of emergency went into effect Sunday in the capital and the three prefectures based on the special measures law against new strains of influenza. During the 17-day state of emergency, which includes the Golden Week holiday period and is scheduled to end on May 11, the four prefectures have requested a wide range of industries to close businesses or shorten operating hours. They are also asking for events to be held without spectators, in principle.

The main focus of the measures is to curb the flow of people.

At Shinjuku Station, company employees and others wearing masks hurried to work, passing through ticket gates from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Monday. In front of the station, sidewalks were crowded with commuters waiting for traffic lights.

“The train was jam-packed,” said a 22-year-old company employee from Kawasaki Ward, Kawasaki. “I’m scared to ride in crowded trains” for 20 or 30 minutes.

Many people were also seen at Tokyo Station. “The number of commuters is down slightly from last week,” a 25-year-old station employee said.

Telework holds the key to curbing the number of commuters.

To ascertain the percentage of companies that have introduced remote working, the Tokyo metropolitan government regularly surveys about 400 companies with 30 or more employees in the capital. The percentage using telework rose from 24% in March last year to 62.7% in April 2020 after the first state of emergency was declared. From June last year, after the state of emergency ended, the figure was at the 50-60% level.

When the second state of emergency was declared in January this year, the percentage of companies using remote work climbed to the 60-70% level again. However, it dropped to 56.4% in the latter half of March after the state of emergency was lifted.

The JR Osaka Station area also saw typical crowds Monday, with many commuters coming and going.

A 43-year-old man who works as a tax accountant in Osaka said he had worked from home in Nagaokakyo, Kyoto Prefecture, for half the week last spring when the first state of emergency was in place. After that ended, however, he has commuted to work since May last year.

“I think the introduction of telework should be promoted to reduce the risk of infections, but it may be easier for companies to manage their employees if staff are kept within sight.” he said.

Published : April 27, 2021

By : The Japan News/ANN