Japanese face 'new normal' after COVID-19 emergency lifted

Japanese face 'new normal' after COVID-19 emergency lifted

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Tokyo, Japan
People wearing protective masks make their way during rush hour at Shinagawa station on the first day after the Japanese government lifted the state of emergency in Tokyo, Japan, May 26, 2020.REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO: A day after Japan ended its state of emergency, Tokyo residents took to the streets with a mixture of relief and trepidation as they prepared for a "new normal" of living with the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the state of emergency in the capital and four remaining prefectures on Monday, claiming victory for managing to keep total infections relatively low, at about 16,600 cases.

"I want to go out drinking and attend concerts," office worker Daisuke Tominaga told Reuters in Shibuya, one of Tokyo's busiest neighbourhoods.

Unlike strict lockdowns in other countries, Japan did not force businesses to close and some had reopened even before the emergency was lifted.

Still, its official end after some seven weeks saw many people returning to work or heading out, while observing social-distancing and wearing masks.

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Naoto Furuki, 45, said his morning commute had been more crowded than usual, which was slightly unsettling.

"I'm still a bit worried. There may be a second wave of the epidemic so we still need to be on alert," he said.

Many children are set to go back to school next week under precautionary measures such as staggered classes.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has warned against complacency and said everyone had to get used to a "new normal" of teleworking and staggered commutes until a vaccine or treatment is developed.

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Many companies said they would let staff keep working from home, while railway operator Odakyu Electric Railway said it would release usage data to help passengers avoid crowded trains.

Electronics giant Sony said it would only let up to 30 per cent of its workforce back to the office in June, while Hitachi said it would aim for half of its work to be done at home.

"We won't go back to our previous working style," Hitachi Executive Officer Hidenobu Nakahata told reporters. "We'll accelerate new working practices, making working-from-home a new standard."

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the coronavirus could change countries' industrial structure and people's behaviour.

"It may be hard for things to return to the ways before the pandemic hit," he told parliament.

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Source: Reuters/nh

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