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Japan's Saitama Pref. fully lifts business closure requests over coronavirus

Saitama Gov. Motohiro Ono addresses attendees at the novel coronavirus response headquarters, at the Saitama Prefectural Government on June 16, 2020. (Mainichi/Shoko Washizu)

SAITAMA -- The Saitama Prefectural Government in east Japan north of Tokyo has lifted its business closure requests for live music venues, restaurants where workers entertain customers and other establishments following a decision at a meeting of its novel coronavirus response headquarters on June 16.

The restrictions on the hours for serving alcoholic beverages were also lifted from the current rule of up to 10 p.m. All these rules went into effect at midnight on June 16. The move has entirely lifted the prefecture's temporary business halt requests, which had been in place since late March. Meanwhile, limits on the number of guests at various events will remain as they are.

Saitama Gov. Motohiro Ono told attendees of the meeting that the number of people newly infected with the novel coronavirus stood at an average of one person per day in the prefecture over the past three weeks. "The situation has settled down, and I thank everyone in this prefecture for that," he said.

Meanwhile, Ono referred to the worrying fact that Tokyo has continued to post more than 40 new infections a day, and indicated that he would make efforts in both economic activities and in measures to prevent the spread of infections. "It is important to seek to curb chances of infections by reducing person-to-person contact," he said.

He also mentioned five points that he would like to keep requesting residents about: refraining from going to entertainment districts in Tokyo at night; not wearing face masks when appropriate if people can maintain a distance of two meters apart from each other outdoors; not discriminating against medical professionals and other such workers; using shops and other establishments taking infection prevention measures; and avoiding the "three Cs" -- closed spaces, crowded places and close contact settings -- inside establishments.

Saitama Prefecture first began to call on residents on March 26 to refrain from going outdoors on weekends. The national government eventually declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus for Tokyo, Saitama and other prefectures on April 7. The Saitama Prefectural Government announced a plan on April 10 that it would request hotels, movie theaters and other facilities to temporarily shut down. The number of coronavirus cases in the prefecture had been on the decline since after the "Golden Week" holiday period that ended in early May.

"The fact that we need to gain cooperation from many people in order to prevent medical systems from falling apart remains unchanged," the governor said.

Meanwhile, the Saitama Prefectural Board of Education released guidelines for schools, including that prefectural institutions be shut down for about two days in case there arise infections among children, students, teachers or staff. After investigating close contact and other factors during temporary school closures, classes or even entire grades will be shut down depending on the survey outcome. Children and pupils who had come in close contact with infected individuals will be suspended from classes. If all of those who had come into close contact with virus carriers test negative in polymerase chain reaction tests, then the closures will fully be lifted.

(Japanese original by Shoko Washizu, Saitama Bureau)

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