• Jiji, Kyodo


Starbucks Coffee Japan Ltd. said Tuesday it will restart the use of seats in stages starting Wednesday in Tokyo and four other prefectures where the coronavirus state of emergency was lifted Monday.

At present, the company only offers takeout services at some 500 outlets in the five prefectures, also including Hokkaido, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, in an effort to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Starbucks has restarted in-store services in other areas, taking precautions against infection including a decrease in the number of seats.

Following the restart in the five prefectures, in-store services will be available at about 1,350 operating stores out of the company's 1,550 outlets nationwide.

The five prefectures were the last remaining ones under the state of emergency, introduced April 7.

Travel agencies also plan to restart store operations in stages in June, following the lifting on Monday of the government's state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, which had been in place since early April.

Travel agencies will take measures to prevent infection, such as shortening operating hours and securing distances between chairs for customers.

KNT-CT Holdings Co. plans to resume operations at all Kinki Nippon Tourist brand travel agency stores on Monday, in principle.

H.I.S. Co. plans to reopen some stores in Tokyo and Osaka prefectures on Monday. JTB Corp. is also preparing to restart operations.

However, it is unclear how many customers will return as many people are staying at home amid the outbreak.

"I think there will be people refraining from traveling to distant destinations for the time being," an industry official said.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is set to remove restrictions on sports gyms in the second phase of its three-step plan to ease business suspension requests in the capital following the lifting of Japan's state of emergency over the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Establishments such as gyms and karaoke boxes, deemed to be high-risk environments for cluster infections, were originally set to reopen only after restrictions on all other businesses had been lifted.

Karaoke boxes will be able to reopen in the third phase of the capital's road map, which was revised following the inclusion of such establishments in the central government's post-emergency policy on Monday.

Although restrictions on bars will also be eased in the third phase, a decision has yet to be made on when live music venues, hostess bars and nightclubs can resume operations.

Tokyo entered phase one on Tuesday with the reopening of museums, libraries and indoor sports facilities. Restaurants, which had been asked to stop providing alcohol by 7 p.m. and close by 8 p.m., can now stay open and offer alcohol until 10 p.m.

The capital has also specified limits on the holding of events based on guidelines released by the central government. In phases one and two, the maximum number of attendees will be limited to 100 for indoor events, and 200 for outdoor events.

Phase three will allow for events to gradually increase in scale, although people will still be required to maintain a reasonable distance between each other.

"I want to ask (businesses) in each industry to safely provide their services while adhering to the guidelines," Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told reporters following a task force meeting on Tuesday.

The metropolitan government is considering moving to phase two, in which theaters, cinemas and cram schools can reopen, as early as this month provided infection number and other criteria are met.

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