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'Not again,' 'Too late': People react to possible 3rd virus state of emergency in Tokyo

This photo shows a statue of a lion wearing a mask at the entrance of a department store in Ginza, Tokyo, on April 21, 2021. (Mainichi/Yohei Koide)

TOKYO -- A third state of emergency is expected to be declared for Japan's capital as "quasi-emergency" measures against the spread of the coronavirus have proven ineffective, and officials are considering stricter measures such as asking department stores and other large commercial facilities to close -- a move eliciting a mixed response from consumers.

    Some shoppers passing through downtown Tokyo wearing masks voiced their opposition to the plans, saying "Not again," "Too late," while others hoped for more effective and stronger measures.

    A 70-year-old woman from Tokyo's Adachi Ward who works part-time and was waiting in front of the Ginza Mitsukoshi store early in the afternoon on April 21, said, "Even though it's called a state of emergency declaration, I don't feel the weight of it a third time."

    In Tokyo, the coronavirus quasi-emergency measures were applied to the 23 wards and six suburban cities on April 12. It has been only a month since the emergency declaration, which was reissued at the beginning of the year, was lifted.

    The woman appealed to the government, "Instead of repeating the measures and lifting the declaration, I hope officials will take strong steps to suppress the coronavirus all at once, just like lockdowns overseas."

    Kyoko Kaneko, 67, a homemaker from Chuo Ward, who was passing nearby, said, "the central government and the metropolitan government have been too slow to respond" and argued that they should have declared a state of emergency before taking quasi-emergency measures.

    Hisako Kikuchi, 75-year-old homemaker from Bunkyo Ward, said, "I think they should have issued it earlier, but I will refrain from going out once the emergency is declared."

    During the first emergency declaration issued in April and May last year, the metropolitan government asked a wide range of businesses, including movie theaters, museums and commercial facilities, to shut their doors. Department stores were also asked to close, with the exception of their food sections.

    One of the employees of a major department store was disappointed that for the second year in a row, they were expected to spend the "Golden Week" holiday period between late April and early May under a state of emergency.

    The employee said, "After a year of creating a safe environment, it's strange that department stores that are not major sources of infection are targeted for closure."

    The Japan Department Stores Association, to which major department stores belong, sent a letter of request addressed to Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on April 20, calling for preventive measures to be taken on the precondition that they can still operate their businesses even under the state of emergency. The letter states that a possible closure will affect the infrastructure of customers' lives and may also hinder the business continuity of client companies.

    Shinjuku Station is crowded day and night with shoppers and passengers from within and outside Tokyo. A self-employed woman from Shibuya Ward, 65, who visited a department store connected to the station by a passageway, said, "The (coronavirus) measures are changing all the time, and I can't see any effects. I feel that people aren't cooperating anymore."

    Fumiko Kishi, 84, a homemaker from Suginami Ward, wondered, "I wonder if the central government and the metropolitan government can't take stronger measures because of the Tokyo Olympics?"

    A 32-year-old part-time worker from Setagaya Ward, who visited the bustling Shibuya area popular among young people, said with a look of resignation: "I won't go back to my parents for the holidays and will spend the time quietly."

    A 21-year-old part-time worker from Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, who recalled the state of emergency declared a year ago, lamented, "I'm tired of refraining from going out. I won't be able to go out with my friends."

    A 19-year-old college sophomore from Yokohama said, "I don't understand the difference between the quasi-emergency measures and the state of emergency. How should I change my behavior?"

    (Japanese original by Hiroshi Endo, Shintaro Iguchi and Shotaro Kinoshita, Tokyo City News Department; and Yongho Lee, Machida Resident Bureau)

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