Tokyo Enters Next Reopening Phase, Eyes Lifting All Restrictions

(Bloomberg) -- Tokyo lifted the city’s virus alert and moved into the next and final phase of its reopening roadmap as the capital continued its recovery from the pandemic.

Bars will now be permitted to stay open until midnight and a host of businesses from karaoke boxes to theme parks will officially be able to resume operating.

“We’re entering a phase where all economic and social activities can be carried out,” Governor Yuriko Koike said Thursday announcing the decision to lift the city’s “Tokyo Alert” imposed nine days earlier, and move to step three of the roadmap. She encouraged companies to continue promoting remote work and staggered hours.

While some cities in the U.S. are preparing to re-impose restrictions, Tokyo has so far yet to see a surge in cases after the state of emergency was lifted on May 25. The “Tokyo Alert” was issued to urge greater vigilance amid an uptick in cases, but as of Thursday the seven-day average of infections had dropped to 17.9, below the city’s target of 20. Japanese officials have stressed they don’t believe the virus can be eliminated entirely and are encouraging people to adjust their lifestyle to help control the spread of the disease.

The city is also reported to be considering lifting all restrictions it asked businesses to follow during the pandemic, which would essentially return the city to a business-as-usual stance. That may come as early as next week, the Nikkei newspaper reported, clearing the way for clubs, music venues and other high-risk settings to reopen.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said Thursday the country was drafting guidelines for how these businesses can resume operating. Such venues were blamed for super-spreader events in the early days of the outbreak in Japan, and South Korea’s experience shows the dangers inherent in allowing crowded, cramped spaces.

Tokyo Enters Next Reopening Phase, Eyes Lifting All Restrictions

Friday’s stage of re-opening in Tokyo will also enable amusement centers and internet cafes to reopen. Pachinko parlors, most of which have already reopened despite government requests to remain shut, are now officially permitted. Bars and restaurants can serve until midnight, versus 10 p.m. under the previous guidelines.

The rollback on restrictions comes ahead of a July 5 gubernatorial election, with Governor Koike widely reported to announce her candidacy later Friday. A poll published last week indicated her handling of the pandemic had bolstered her popularity and she is seen as the clear front-runner in the race.

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