National

Hope for return to normal as Japan partially lifts virus emergency

KYODO

People on the streets in Japan on Thursday expressed hope that their lives will soon return to normal after a national state of emergency declared over the novel coronavirus pandemic is lifted for 39 prefectures.

But people living in areas set to remain under the state of emergency voiced concern that what policymakers and experts perceive as a protracted battle against the pneumonia-causing virus will continue to negatively impact their lives and businesses.

"I believe the flow of people will gradually return to normal," said Yuta Arai, 34, who works at a fruit and vegetable shop in Kanazawa, the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture.

Ishikawa is among 13 prefectures that have been designated as areas requiring "special caution" regarding the virus outbreak, but it is set to see the order lifted, along with 38 other prefectures.

"I just hope many customers will visit my shop," said Arai, whose store is in Omicho Ichiba in Kanazawa, a famous market that draws local customers and tourists from other parts of Japan as well as abroad.

Akane Sakamoto, 25, a company employee, said that like others, she has become tired of complying with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's request for people to refrain from making nonessential outings during the emergency period.

Sakamoto said she hopes the number of infections will fall to zero in Ishikawa and elsewhere in Japan as soon as possible.

In the meantime, Tokyo will remain under the state of emergency along with seven other prefectures. The capital has the largest number of infections.

The number of morning commuters at JR Shimbashi Station in central Tokyo on Thursday was far lower than levels before Abe declared the state of emergency last month.

"It is hard for me to remember the scenes here of bustling people," said Ayako Ogawa, 73, who was returning to her home in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward after her part-time cleaning job.

"I wonder if we will ever see vigor here again," Ogawa said.

Takayuki Tanno, who works for a startup company, said, "It can't be helped that Tokyo will not return to normal. But I'm worried the current situation will persist and may have a negative impact on the economy."

A resident of Ota Ward, Tanno, 55, said some of his colleagues working from home have become frustrated because it is difficult to switch from working mode to private mode and vice versa.

In Gunma Prefecture, Masayuki Oe, who runs an antique shop in the prefectural capital Maebashi, expressed caution about the lifting of the state of emergency and a possible second wave of infections.

"Once lifted, people will become increasingly off guard," Oe, 71, said. "We have to come up with how to coexist with the virus. Managers must try various measures."

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