Tokyo starts new normality after lifting health alert

Tokyo, May 26 (efe-epa).- Tokyo started life under a new normal on Tuesday after lifting its health alert for the coronavirus pandemic.

Shops and offices have been gradually reopening in the Japanese capital, although with social distancing measures still in place in a bid to avoid new infections.

There were more people out in the streets of the city, which is home to 14 million, as many establishments opened their doors for the first time since the beginning of April.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the end of the health emergency in Tokyo and four other prefectures where measures were still in force, bringing the entire country out of lockdown.

The state of emergency had meant all citizens had to stay at home and were only allowed outside for essential trips as well as the closure of commercial establishments and public spaces.

With the alert lifted authorities have established a phased return to a system designed to allow Japanese residents to get used to a new lifestyle that includes preventative measures to avoid any future outbreaks, according to Abe.

Phase one, which Tokyo is currently in, allows offices, shopping centers, small shops, museums, libraries and parks to reopen, as well as bars and restaurants but with limited hours.

These hours are set to be extended and cinemas, gyms and karaoke bars will be allowed to operate again, establishments considered to be of greater risk since they are often closed and poorly ventilated spaces.

Businesses and public spaces must comply with a series of safety recommendations when reopening, including taking customers’ temperatures at their entrances, installing hand sanitizer dispensers, protective screens at public service points and setting a maximum capacity.

Posters at the entrance of shops and other closed spaces remind people that it is mandatory to wear masks inside, although they are already regularly used in Japan.

Larger companies have begun to progressively reinstate employees who have been working from home, with staggered schedules to avoid crowds on public transport at peak times.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga thanked the Japanese people for their cooperation during the lockdown, which he said “has allowed us to avoid a drastic expansion of infections”.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said: “I hope that together we will apply the ‘new normal’,”.

He also called for monitoring of prevention protocols to avoid having to resort to restrictions again.

Japan, which is home to 126 million people, has managed to dramatically reduce the number of new infections across the country and relieve pressure on its health system.

The country, which recorded its first coronavirus case in mid-January, has reported around 16,600 infections and 850 deaths, according to official data. EFE-EPA


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