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Tokyo Set to Allow More Businesses to Reopen

People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus keep social distancing as they wait to buy sushi in Yokohama, near Tokyo, May 28, 2020.

Tokyo officials announced Friday that, beginning Monday, they will allow additional businesses, including theaters, cinemas, fitness gyms and retailers to reopen after a coronavirus state of emergency ended this week.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared an end to a seven-week emergency, saying COVID-19 infections have subsided enough to resume social and economic activity under a "new normal" requiring physical distancing and other disease prevention measures.

At a news briefing, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said the city is now ready to move to Step 2 of a three-phase plan to gradually reopen businesses in the city. But as Tokyo reported 22 new coronavirus cases Friday, she raised concerns of an underlying risk and a possible second wave of infections.

While Koike said infections are not accelerating and Tokyo hospitals now have space, she urged residents to keep their guard up and take ample precautions as they now must live "with corona." She said with no vaccine or reliable treatment yet available, "the only measure we can take against the spread of the virus is, at the end of the day, up to our own strong will and actions."

Koike said we all must "live alongside corona ... with appropriate fear."

In the city of Kitakyushu in southern Japan, 43 new cases were reported this week after a three-week hiatus, prompting the city to close some businesses again.

Koike said libraries, museums and schools — considered to be lowest risk — reopened in Tokyo this week. Under Step 2, theaters, cinemas, fitness gyms, private tutoring schools and retailers can resume businesses, and some gatherings can take place as well.

Night clubs, karaoke and live music houses, which are considered more prone to infections, will be last and their safety guidelines are still being worked out.

Even though its emergency measures only involved requests for social distancing and some business closures, Japan so far has about 16,700 cases and 870 deaths, significantly fewer than many other countries.