Children play in a park in Meguro-ku, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 2020. Major Japanese cities including the capital of Tokyo became unusually quiet on Wednesday, with many shops closed and fewer people on streets on the first day after a state of emergency was declared to contain the fast spread of COVID-19 infections across the country.
Children play in a park in Meguro-ku, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 2020. Major Japanese cities including the capital of Tokyo became unusually quiet on Wednesday, with many shops closed and fewer people on streets on the first day after a state of emergency was declared to contain the fast spread of COVID-19 infections across the country.
Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi

TOKYO-- Major Japanese cities including the capital of Tokyo became unusually quiet on Wednesday, with many shops closed and fewer people on streets on the first day after a state of emergency was declared to contain the fast spread of COVID-19 infections across the country.

The state of emergency will be in place until May 6 and covers Tokyo and other major prefectures including Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka. Aside from supermarkets, drugstores and others which provide essential services, many businesses in those areas were closed following the government's request for people to stay at home and limit social contact.

Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd. closed all of its six Mitsukoshi and Isetan department stores in the metropolitan area, while Matsuya Co.'s store in Tokyo's Ginza shopping area was also closed. However, sections selling food continued to open at some other department stores.

Meanwhile, movie theaters, bowling alleys and shops inside station buildings were also among closed businesses.

Train and bus companies in the Tokyo area said they are operating as usual on Wednesday, adding that they may reduce or suspend services if the government makes a request or if they face a significant decline in users.

Airlines in Japan have already reduced their flights drastically before the state of emergency was declared, but they may further slash flights if the number of travelers continues to drop.

In some stations in central Tokyo, the number of people was apparently less than usual.

A 59-year-old company executive told local media in front of a station, "On a usual morning, traffic is very busy here, but I feel there are significantly fewer commuters (today)."

"We have employees working from home, but there are tasks that force me to come to the office, such as dealing with documents that need to be signed with a seal," he added.

Some restaurant chains are staying open, but with shorter service hours. McDonald's Co. has continued to operate most of its outlets except those inside closed commercial facilities, while some locations stopped providing around-the-clock service.

Starbucks Coffee Japan, Ltd. will close some 850 shops located in the seven prefectures targeted by the declaration from Thursday, while shops in other areas will close earlier than usual at 7 p.m.

The Japan Sport Council said on Wednesday that it will close two major Olympic training facilities until May 6. During the period, athletes will be unable to use the National Training Center and Japan Institute of Sports Sciences, both in Tokyo.

Government officials said Tokyo reported 144 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, marking the highest daily increase. The previous high figure was 143 cases logged Sunday.

The total number of infections confirmed in the capital now climbed to over 1,338, with 1,112 people hospitalized and 31 deaths from the pneumonia-causing virus as of Tuesday evening. Across Japan, the number of infections increased to 4,768 as of 6:30 p.m. local time Wednesday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a month-long state of emergency on Tuesday, covering about 56 million people, or about 45 percent of the country's total population.

While it enables prefectural governors to take measures such as instructing citizens to stay at home and restricting the operation of schools and other facilities, penalties or punitive measures cannot be issued to citizens or businesses who opt not to follow requests from prefectural governors.

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