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Japan lifts coronavirus state of emergency in most prefectures

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Japan lifts coronavirus state of emergency in most prefectures
The notice displays at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo on March 1, 2020, saying it is closed temporarily to curb the spread of the coronavirus. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The coronavirus state of emergency put in place in many of Japan's prefectures that lasted through the Summer Olympic Games was mostly lifted Friday after the country sharply curtailed its infection rate.

Restaurants, theme parks and other high-traffic businesses prepared for a rush as the Japanese government lifted restrictions just in time for the weekend. Japanese officials hinted on Tuesday that the state of emergency was coming to an end.

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The state of emergency was effective, the government said, as coronavirus infection rates tumbled from a record 25,867 on Aug. 20 nationwide to 1,576 reported on Thursday.

The restrictions did have negative effects. Minoru Sasaki, president of the liquor wholesaler company Sasaki Co., told media outlet Asahi Shimbun he lost 20% of his customers because they closed their businesses permanently during the pandemic.

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Sasaki said, though, the lifting of restrictions will benefit those still in business.

"The employees are looking forward to getting back to business," Sasaki said. "Up to now, they've been talking about how they'll have to diet to shed the weight they've gained in the meantime. Everyone is thinking positively, which is a big help."

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Despite the end of the state of emergency, some restrictions remain. Restaurants and bars that have been certified for following COVID-19 safety measures will be allowed to serve alcohol until 8 p.m. and stay open until 9 p.m. with a table capacity of four. They still cannot offer karaoke.

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Capacity at events will be capped at 50% and the government continued to ask for caution in traveling between prefectures and gathering in large crowds. It is still prohibiting alcohol on the street and in parks.

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