Tokyo Close to Unlocking Entertainment Venues as Virus Emergency Is Lifted

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The Japanese government will Monday end its nationwide state of emergency, initiated in early April in response to the coronavirus outbreak. That will trigger a phased reopening of the economy, nationwide and including Tokyo, which has been under emergency for longer than other parts of the country.

The state of emergency was lifted in much of Japan on May 14. But Tokyo and four neighboring prefectures went into emergency earlier and are emerging from it later than the rest of the country. The reopening announcement on Monday comes a week earlier than had been scheduled.

“There is no longer a need for a state of emergency in any part of the country,” said economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura in a Monday morning meeting.

Japan has suffered 16,367 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 768 deaths. Of these, more than 5,000 cases occurred in Tokyo, including 247 fatalities.

Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe is expected to address the nation at 6pm local time Monday, after which the state of emergency will end. The Japanese central government does not have the authority to order businesses to close, but it can advise. It also uses the prefecture governors to persuade non-conformists.

Under the step-by-step re-opening plan museums, libraries and other cultural institutions will be urged to reopen if they maintain certain precautions. Restaurants will be allowed to stay open till later in the evening, and public events will be permitted so long as they number fewer than 50 people.

In later stages, facilities and venues with no virus history will be allowed to reopen, and requested to maintain attendance of fewer than 100 people. This would include Tokyo cinemas. A third stage would see  events with up to 1,000 people going ahead. Toho, Aeon and other cinema chains already began a cautious opening of theaters outside Tokyo from May 15.

The Tokyo mayor, Yuriko Koike, said that city residents would be alerted if the reopening sparked a serious new rise in virus infections.

The Universal Studios Japan theme park, near Osaka, was told last week that it could reopen. It has not yet announced any plans to do so.

The lifting of restrictions in Tokyo could mean that Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea parks also soon reopen, having been closed since February. Tokyo Disneyland updated its website at midday Monday, but showed the facilities remaining closed until further notice. “The decision on the reopening date will be made and announced once the requests from government and local municipalities have been lifted,” it said.

On Sunday, the two parks’ majority owner, Oriental Land said that it will raise a $1.9 billion (JPY200 billion) credit line from Mizuho Bank. Local media reported that Oriental Land does not currently have a funding problem, but it is anticipating a prolonged financial impact from the closure. Some 25,000 full- and part-time workers are on leave and are being paid an allowance.