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West Japan Railway Co., or JR West, said it will consider putting employees on temporary leave again following the declaration of a fresh state of emergency over the novel coronavirus.

“We will study the possibility of conducting a furlough scheme” as demand has been falling back since late last year, JR West President Kazuaki Hasegawa said in an online news conference on Monday.

JR West put a furlough program in place from May 16, 2020, through the end of July the same year in the wake of a plunge in the number of passengers amid the pandemic.

Passenger demand at JR West, which had been recovering since the government launched the Go To Travel campaign last July, has been decreasing again recently due to a resurgence of the coronavirus. The number of passengers for its Sanyo Shinkansen bullet train line dropped 60% in December from a year before and about 70% in the first 14 days of this month.

Hasegawa said that the number of passengers on the company’s shinkansen and other express trains dropped further on Saturday and Sunday, the first weekend since the fresh coronavirus state of emergency was declared for Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures in the Kansai region, the main service area for JR West.

In response to the slumping demand, JR West has decided to cancel some of its shinkansen and other train operations. The company will decide when to launch the renewed furlough scheme while assessing the level of decrease in work volume.

Among other JR Group firms, Central Japan Railway Co. is poised to put about 400 employees per day on temporary leave between Jan. 25 and the end of February.

The fresh state of emergency was put into force on Jan. 8, initially for Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures, and expanded to seven other prefectures on Thursday. The state of emergency, now covering 11 of the country’s 47 prefectures, is slated to be in place until Feb. 7.

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