National

Morning crowds down 60% in central Tokyo after coronavirus emergency declared

Kyodo, Jiji

The number of people traveling to the normally bustling central Tokyo area was about 60 percent lower than usual on Wednesday morning, a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency for the capital and six prefectures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, data analyzed by an information technology firm showed Thursday.

While morning crowds, including commuters, significantly decreased in Tokyo from early February, before the outbreak started to spread across the country, crowds in the heart of other major cities — Nagoya, Osaka, and Fukuoka — declined by only 20 to 30 percent, according to the data.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has been strongly urging residents to avoid nonessential travel. Despite calls to stay home, cities are still far behind Abe’s target of reducing person-to-person contact by as much as 80 percent.

Yahoo Japan Corp. estimated the number of visitors in six wards — Tokyo’s Chuo, Minato, and Chiyoda, along with Nagoya’s Naka, Osaka’s Kita, and Fukuoka’s Hakata — from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., by analyzing data gathered from users of its smartphone app.

According to the analysis, Tokyo’s Chuo Ward recorded the biggest drop in traffic, down 61 percent from figures seen in February. Ginza, a popular shopping district, is located in the ward.

In Fukuoka, crowd volume fell 37 percent while Osaka saw a drop of 34 percent.

In Nagoya, which was not covered by the state of emergency, traffic fell 24 percent.

Subway operator Tokyo Metro Co. said Thursday the number of passengers on Wednesday dropped by 60 percent from a year earlier, with the number of users down 61 percent between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Data provided by mobile phone carrier NTT Docomo Inc., comparing the change in city center populations between 7 p.m. Tuesday, just after the declaration, and the same time Wednesday, showed that the number of people in and around Tokyo’s busy Shibuya commercial district plunged by 27.1 percent and in Osaka Prefecture’s Umeda downtown district by 35 percent.

The largest tumble was recorded in and around Yokohama, at 40.8 percent, while the smallest drop was in Urawa, Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo, with 10.5 percent.

Agoop Corp. analyzed the population changes at major stations in Tokyo between Monday and Wednesday.

The number of people at Shinjuku Station on Wednesday plummeted 30.7 percent from Monday, and the number of people at Shinagawa Station fell by 12.7 percent, according to the analysis.

A government official said that the declaration has helped reduce the number of citizens visiting city centers.

At a news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga avoided any clear comment on whether the government can achieve its target of reducing person-to-person contacts by 80 percent.

But he said, “We ask for the public’s cooperation in cutting down on human-to-human contacts as much as possible.”

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