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Large parts of Japan marked the first day out of a state of emergency yesterday while major cities remained under coronavirus restrictions and new testing suggested that contagion in Tokyo was wider than official figures.

Softbank Corp. and McDonald’s Japan said they would return to normal operations in 39 of Japan’s 47 prefectures that are now exempt from the emergency declaration. The 39 prefectures account for 55 per cent of Japan’s 126 million people.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the state of emergency for these prefectures on Thursday but said the urban centres of Tokyo and Osaka and six other prefectures will remain under restrictions until there is convincing containment.

The emergency gives governors more authority to tell people to stay at home and to close schools and businesses, but there is no penalty for non-compliance.

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“Even in areas where the emergency has been lifted, we would like to see people refrain from moving between prefectures as much as possible, at least during this month,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. “We hope people will be return to their daily lives in stages.”

Kyodo News reported that antibody tests of 500 Tokyo residents conducted by the health ministry indicated that 0.6 per cent had been exposed to the virus. That would correlate to about 55,000 cases, based on the capital’s population of 9.2 million, more than 10 times the official figures for infections. The health ministry plans to expand antibody testing to 10,000 people next month, Kyodo said.

Softbank said its mobile phone shops would return to normal operations in the 39 prefectures. McDonald’s, which had done take-out only, said it would resume in-store dining in those regions.

But it was unclear how soon the regional economies could snap back. Little movement is expected at least until the end of the month.


Japan coronavirus restrictions Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
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