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Many workers commuting in Osaka despite state of emergency; some say they have no choice

Quite a number of people are seen commuting to work wearing masks on a train bound for JR Osaka Station, despite the prime minister's urges for a 70% reduction, in Osaka's Kita Ward on April 13, 2020. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Fujii)

IZUMISANO, Osaka -- The area around JR Osaka Station remained crowded with people on April 13, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to reduce commuter numbers by at least 70% following his April 7 state of emergency declaration.

There were few people seen outdoors on the April 11-12 weekend, the first under the state of emergency, and requests to refrain from leaving the house seemed to have been effective. However, there are many companies that were apparently unable to respond to the prime minister's sudden call for teleworking, and a number of concerns were raised by those heading to work on the Monday morning.

One e-commerce business based in Amagasaki, in the neighboring western Japan prefecture of Hyogo, established an office in the city of Osaka as an emergency measure for dispersing workers into smaller groups to curb virus transmission risks. A 56-year-old worker who was on her way to the new office for the first time told the Mainichi Shimbun, "We cannot put together a teleworking set-up right away as it is difficult to handle customer information at home."

A 30-year-old salesman from Kobe who was heading to his office in Osaka said with a resigned expression, "My company has reduced the number of days I need to show up at the office, but my job in sales requires meeting people face to face. Although there is a chance I'll get infected, I can't afford to not show up for work."

On the other hand, the underground shopping center in Umeda, Osaka, which is usually bustling with people, was mostly deserted on April 12, as many stores were temporarily closed.

(Japanese original by Yasutoshi Tsurumi, Izumisano Resident Bureau)

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