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Japan sees week-low 312 virus cases, tourist spots busy on holidays

Osaka's Minami area is crowded with pedestrians on Sept. 21, 2020, the third day of Japan's four-day holiday period amid continued worries over the novel coronavirus. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan confirmed on Monday 312 new coronavirus cases, the lowest daily tally in a week, amid concerns over a pickup in infections in the midst of a four-day holiday that prompted people to go out to domestic tourist spots.

    The number compares with 480 cases Sunday and is the smallest since Sept. 14 when 268 cases were reported, as Tokyo, the hardest-hit area among Japan's 47 prefectures, also saw its lowest figure in seven days, confirming 98 daily new infections.

    The latest figure brings the nationwide tally to 80,184 cases including around 700 from the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama in February. The death toll rose by seven to 1,527.

    The daily figures reflect the most recent totals reported by health authorities and medical institutions.

    Japan saw a resurgence in new virus cases following the end of a state of emergency in late May, with more than 1,500 daily cases reported in early August. But the pace of increase has been slowing recently.

    Last Tuesday the Tokyo metropolitan government lifted a request for alcohol-serving business operators such as restaurants and bars in the capital's 23 wards to close at 10 p.m.

    The reduction in infections also prompted the central government to relax a rule limiting the size of crowds at sports matches, movie theaters and other events, starting on Saturday, the first day of the four-day holiday through Tuesday.

    People appeared less cautious about traveling and returned to tourist spots during the holidays, local store and restaurant operators said.

    Hayato Nozaki, 34, who works for a Japanese restaurant in Asakusa, one of the most popular tourist spots in Tokyo, said he had not seen the area so crowded with tourists for a while.

    "As we had long been in a severe situation, this is a relief," he said. "But I'm also worried that virus infections may surge again."

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