Primary school students wearing face masks amid the concern over the spread of the coronavirus gather for a class in a gymnasium at a reopened school in Tokyo, Japan, on Monday. Picture: AFP / KAZUHIRO NOGI
Primary school students wearing face masks amid the concern over the spread of the coronavirus gather for a class in a gymnasium at a reopened school in Tokyo, Japan, on Monday. Picture: AFP / KAZUHIRO NOGI

Tokyo — Students in Tokyo started to return to school on Monday, with fitness gyms, saunas and cinemas among businesses reopening their doors in the capital after nearly two months under a loose lockdown.

Japan has been slowly reopening economic activity across the country after a state of emergency to tackle the coronavirus was lifted nationwide last week.

Schools in the capital are resuming, albeit with staggered student attendance, for the first time in about three months, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for their closure at end-February.

In Tokyo, governor Yuriko Koike has laid out a three-stage reopening road map for when businesses can resume operations, with the city entering stage two of the plan on Monday. That has allowed gyms to resume — with operators asking for patrons to exercise in masks — as well as a range of businesses from private cram schools and department stores.

Five new cases of coronavirus were reported in Tokyo on Sunday.

Key words such as “crowded trains”, “remote work”, and “resuming business” were among the top trending phrases on Twitter in Tokyo Monday, with many saying that trains and stations in the city were busier than they had been recently.

The seven-week state of emergency gave regional governors the power to ask firms to close and urge residents to stay home to contain the coronavirus. Despite having no penalties for disobedience, many firms and citizens complied. Even without the hard lockdown seen in other parts of the world, Abe last month was able to lift the state of emergency earlier than expected, with new infections having dropped to zero in many prefectures.

Many businesses in Tokyo, ranging from karaoke boxes and theme parks to mah-jong parlours and strip clubs, will be asked to remain closed for longer.

Night clubs, hostess bars and small music venues, which had been identified as sites of infection clusters, will stay shut until the national government decides on guidelines to reopening.

Tokyo Disney Resort will also stay closed for the time being, its operator said on Monday.

The city of Osaka has removed restrictions on all business sectors as of June 1, contingent upon businesses following the prefectural government’s guidelines on how to operate using social distancing measures.

Bloomberg

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