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The government’s decision Tuesday to expand its coronavirus state of emergency to seven more prefectures led many people to question the effectiveness of the anti-pandemic measure.

The government will newly put Fukuoka, Gunma, Hyogo, Ibaraki, Kyoto, Shizuoka and Tochigi prefectures under the state of emergency from Friday through Sept. 12. It also plans to extend the ongoing emergency in Tokyo and five other prefectures, previously set to end on Aug. 31, to Sept. 12 as well.

“I don’t think the expansion of the state of emergency will reduce people’s movements,” said a 49-year-old homemaker who was at Tokyo Station on her way to visit her hometown in Ibaraki with her 12-year-old daughter. “Unless lockdown measures are taken, people may go out.”

“In Japan, there’s no other option but to issue a state of emergency,” said a company worker who was waiting for his friend to return from a homecoming visit.

But he quickly added, “I doubt if it will work well.”

People walk in Fukuoka's Tenjin District on Aug. 12. | KYODO
People walk in Fukuoka’s Tenjin District on Aug. 12. | KYODO

Business owners in the Arashiyama area in Kyoto, which is usually flooded with tourists during the summer holiday, were fairly disappointed at the government’s decision.

“With no end in sight (for the pandemic), we’re about to lose heart,” said Masahiro Hosokawa, 59, who heads an association for the Arashiyama shopping street joined by some 100 stores.

Sales at his souvenir shop this month have already fallen to about 10% of the regular level with customers vanishing from the shopping street.

“It was a devastating Bon (summer holiday),” Hosokawa said. “I don’t think the state of emergency will serve as a magic bullet that leads to a bright future.”

Fukuoka’s Tenjin commercial district was crowded with shoppers despite the rainy weather.

A 63-year-old woman among them said that although she will not complain about limiting the number of visitors at large-scale commercial facilities during the emergency period, she thinks “it’s too late” to introduce the measure.

Her granddaughter, 10, said sadly, “Cooking classes may be canceled in the second trimester if the situation remains the same.”

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