By Akira Tomoshige and Hideto Sakai
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s leading tourist bus company Hato Bus Co. resumed operations on Monday following the lifting of the coronavirus state of emergency for the Tokyo area, allowing passengers to take advantage of 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 three surrounding prefectures, where restrictions had been in place since early January, as the availability of hospital beds improved in the region.
“I have been working from home for a long time and have no chance to go out. So (the cherry blossoms) gave me a lot of morale,” Masumi Ishii, a passenger, told Reuters after the tour.
In the Hato Bus open-top sightseeing bus that left Tokyo Station on Monday, all 25 seats available on the upper deck were packed with passengers.
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They enjoyed taking photos and searching for cherry blossom petals along the roads.
“Frankly, I am very happy that we were able to resume this course,” said Satomi Yoshizuka, tour manager. “We are taking steps and preparations so that our customers can attend without worry.”
Passengers are required to put on face masks and undergo temperature checks.
Although the government, eager to revive the economy, has lifted the state of emergency, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga noted last week that infections were on the rise and pleaded with citizens not to let their guard down.
Pedestrians walking outside Tokyo Station on Monday morning hailed the end of the state of emergency and said its effect was waning.
Natsuki Kawakami, a 20-year-old university student visiting Tokyo from her home in Kyoto, said the prolonged state of emergency was making people tired of restraint and less careful.
“I think it’s good to get it over with for now and take another step (in the future), which allows people to prepare again,” Kawakami said.
As of Sunday, COVID-19 cases totaled around 457,000 in Japan, with 8,836 deaths, according to public broadcaster NHK.
(Reporting by Akira Tomoshige, Hideto Sakai; written by Kiyoshi Takenaka)
Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.