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Major department stores in Tokyo and Osaka have started restricting the entry of customers to their basement grocery sections in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The move comes after a panel of experts who advise the government on COVID-19 measures on Thursday called for powerful measures to restrict the movement of people.

The Japan Department Stores Association on Friday called on member stores in areas under a coronavirus state of emergency to take stricter precautions.

Specifically, they were asked to halve the number of customers allowed in food sections based on foot traffic seen in early July, before the emergency was issued.

In Osaka on Friday, Hankyu Hanshin Department Store Inc.’s Hankyu Umeda outlet closed underground entrances to the area selling food, meaning it can only be reached by escalators.

“We started with Hankyu Umeda, the store with the most potential to become crowded, and will take additional steps if necessary,” said a public relations official at parent firm H20 Retailing Corp.

In Tokyo, starting on Saturday five stores run by Isetan Mitsukoshi Holding Ltd. are reducing the number of entrances to their food sections.

Seven stores run by Sogo & Seibu Co., a Seven & I Holdings Co. unit, are restricting the entry of customers across all floors.

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