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The tour bus operation in Tokyo resumes as the state of emergency was lifted

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By Akira Tomoshige and Hideto Sakai

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s leading bus company Hato Bus Co. resumed work Monday after lifting a coronavirus emergency for the Tokyo area, allowing passengers to enjoy the fresh air and cherry blossoms in full bloom from an open top bus.

The Japanese government on Sunday lifted the state of emergency for Tokyo and the three surrounding prefectures, where restrictions had remained in place since early January, as the availability of hospital beds had improved in the region.

“I have been working from home for a long time and I had no chance of going out. So, (cherry blossoms) made me very happy,” Masumi Ishii, a passenger, told Reuters after the tour.

On the high-profile Hato Bus tour bus that departed Monday from Tokyo station, all 25 seats available on the upper deck were packed with passengers.

They liked to take pictures and reached for the cherry blossom petals along the streets.

“Honestly, I’m very happy that we can resume this course,” said Satomi Yoshizuka, a tour conductor. “We are taking measures and preparation so that our customers can participate without worries.”

Travelers are asked to put on face masks and undergo temperature controls.

Although the government, eager to start the economy, lifted the state of emergency, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week noted that infections were dragging on and urged citizens not to allow their guards.

Pedestrians walking outside the Tokyo station on Monday morning welcomed the end of the state of emergency and said its effect was fading.

Natsuki Kawakami, a 20-year-old university student visiting Tokyo from her home in Kyoto, said the prolonged state of emergency made people tired of self-control and less cautious.

“I think it’s good to put an end to it now and take another measure (in the future), which makes people support themselves again,” Kawakami said.

As of Sunday, COVID-19 cases have reached a total of about 457,000 in Japan, with 8,836 victims, according to public broadcaster NHK.

(Report by Akira Tomoshige, Hideto Sakai; written by Kiyoshi Takenaka)

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