Tokyo looks to ease restrictions and get economy back on track

Linda J. Dodson

TOKYO — The Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced on Friday a road map for easing restrictions on business operations and going out by residents, as Japan has recently recorded a decrease in new infections. The move came a day after after the Japanese government lifted its state of emergency declaration for much of the country — though not the nation’s capital.

“We will work to contain new cases of infection while at the same time getting social and economic activities back on track, and will make decisions step by step on [relaxing] requests for businesses to shut down and residents to refrain from going out,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters on Friday.

The road map for easing the restrictions includes three numerical targets to be cleared. The number of new infections must be lower than 20 a day, the proportion of unknown infection routes must be lower than 50% and the weekly rate of increase in positive cases must be less than 1.

If all targets are cleared and the number of hospitalized and critically ill patients is well contained, the Tokyo government will gradually relax the restrictions, she said.

Even after Tokyo eases them, however, Koike will trigger an alert if one of the numerical criteria exceeds the set limit so as to raise public awareness about a new wave of infections. In such a case, she will again ask citizens to refrain from going out or opening shops, if necessary.

The Tokyo government is looking to continue its current restrictions in place at least until May 31.

Officials considered it necessary to create the road map in advance as infections are likely to rise again after the restrictions are relaxed.

Restrictions are to be eased in three stages, according to the importance of buildings and facilities and the prevailing risk of infection. Tokyo will prioritize opening up facilities considered necessary for residents’ everyday life such as libraries. The government will then relax restrictions on those that have a lower risk of infection. Lastly, it will give the green light to facilities that pose relatively higher risks of infection.

Tokyo on Friday confirmed nine new infections. The figure fell below 10 for the first time since March 22, according to sources. A total of 5,036 people have been infected in Tokyo, which has a total population of more than 13 million people.

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