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Stores in Japan taking extra 'social distancing' precautions amid state of emergency

Plastic curtains to prevent infections of the new coronavirus are seen at a checkout counter of a Lawson convenience store. (Photo courtesy of Lawson Inc.)
A sign saying, "Social distancing. Keep away from others!" is seen displayed amid the state of emergency due to the spread of the new coronavirus at the local supermarket Akidai in Tokyo's Nerima Ward on April 8, 2020. (Mainichi/Hajime Nakatsugawa)

TOKYO -- Convenience stores and supermarkets in Japan are taking extra measures to distant staff from customers amid the state of emergency due to the spread of the new coronavirus.

Convenience store chain Seven-Eleven Japan Co. announced on April 8 that it recommends its outlets across Japan to set up plastic curtains or other kind of partitions at checkout counters to prevent infections between customers and staff. Some outlets have already taken such action, according to the headquarters. Rival company Lawson Inc. is also taking similar steps in seven prefectures designated under the state of emergency.

Supermarket giant Aeon Co. on the same day placed tape on the floors of some outlets so customers can keep a distance from each other when they line up in front of checkout counters.

Local supermarket Akidai in Tokyo's Nerima Ward on April 8 posted notices in its stores saying, "Social distancing. Keep away from others!" and customers were seen keeping a distance while waiting in line. Hiromichi Akiba, president of the store, said, "We stopped distributing flyers about sales on Sundays to prevent congestion. As the store is small, there's no choice but to limit the number of customers if they start forming a long line."

Summit Inc., which operates 117 supermarkets in the greater Tokyo area, instructed outlets on April 7 to limit the number of customers from entering when stores are crowded. OK Corp., which manages many supermarkets mainly in the Kanto region in east Japan, announced on the same day, "Entry limitations may be carried out based on the judgment of each store.

(Japanese original by Hajime Nakatsugawa and Yuki Machino, Business News Department)

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