Japan entered its first weekend under a nationwide state of emergency Saturday, with tourist sites and entertainment districts largely deserted as people heeded a government call to stay home in a bid to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.
In the city of Miyazaki, there were very few people in the main shopping arcade, with “closed” signs adorning most store doors.
“Normally there are lots of people on Saturday morning who’ve finished working at bars,” said Tokuyoshi Hidaka, a 70-year-old taxi driver who was on the hunt for passengers. “My earnings have almost halved since March.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday expanded the areas covered by the state of emergency to the entire nation after originally declaring it over only Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka and four other prefectures on April 7.
On Saturday, only mask-wearing commuters traversed the area around Oita Station in the city of the same name.
As in Miyazaki, the Oita Prefectural Government has not asked for nonessential businesses to temporarily close, but shopping complex Amu Plaza Oita in the station building nonetheless began doing so on Saturday.
“I don’t know where to go now to relieve the stress from my work,” said Akiko Eguchi, 49, a company employee who is a regular visitor to a massage business inside the complex.
In the city of Fukuoka, just a handful of people were seen at the major shopping district of Tenjin but many still walked and jogged in Ohori Park.
“There are more people than usual,” said a man in his 60s who visits the park for a run once a week. “There is nowhere to go with all shops closed and I suppose they are all here to exercise.”
In addition to the seven prefectural governments, nine others, including Aichi and Kyoto, were expected to ask nonessential businesses to suspend operations, with four more, including Ishikawa and Hiroshima, considering following suit.
Abe said at a news conference Friday that people must avoid traveling from the urban centers to rural areas because doing so would risk further spreading the virus to other, less-populated areas.
Iwate Prefecture in the Tohoku region is now the only one of Japan’s 47 prefectures to not report a case of infection.
Sixty-year-old Nobuko Yoshida, who works at a restaurant in the capital city of Morioka, said the expansion of the state of emergency “will make things inconvenient (for her work)” but accepted it “can’t be helped as we don’t want infections here.”
Under the monthlong state of emergency, Abe is asking people to reduce contact with others by as much as 80 percent. He’s also urged companies to shift to teleworking to achieve a 70 percent cut in the number of commuters to prevent the further spread of the virus.
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