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Major Japan train station use drops 20% as telework spreads amid virus fears

Trains on the JR Yamanote Line are seen at Hamamatsucho Station in this April 25, 2019 file photo. (Mainichi/Yosei Kozano)

TOKYO -- Japan has seen a roughly 20% drop in the use of major railway stations during peak hours due to the spread of teleworking among companies amid the new coronavirus outbreak, the transport minister has revealed.

At a press conference on March 6, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Kazuyoshi Akaba said the decline is based on figures since Feb. 25, when calls for the promotion of teleworking and commuting at off-peak times began to be announced on trains.

According to the transport ministry, the number of passengers who went out of automatic ticket gates at major terminal stations on March 3 dropped by 21% in the Tokyo metropolitan area and 14% in the Kansai region in western Japan, compared to Feb. 25. The number of passengers taking Tokyo's JR Yamanote Line during its one-hour peak time from 7:40 a.m. also declined by 22-24% between March 2 and 4.

With regards to the move to limit the acceptance of flights from China and South Korea to two airports in Japan -- Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, and Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka Prefecture, western Japan -- as well as to request a halt to passenger ship services between Japan and those two countries, Akaba commented, "The measure is expected to reduce people's movements substantially, and we'd like to closely watch its effects."

Apart from Narita and KIX, 14 airports in Japan currently host some 230 round-trip flights between Japan and China each week, and 15 airports host about 300 round-trip flights between Japan and South Korea per week, according to the ministry. While passenger ship services have been suspended between Japan and China, there are about 30 round-trip ship services each week between Busan, South Korea, and western Japan ports including Osaka and Hakata in Fukuoka.

(Japanese original by Atsushi Matsumoto, City News Department)

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