Tokyo lowers alert level as coronavirus fears ease

FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective masks make their way during rush hour at Shinagawa station on the first day after the Japanese government lifted the state of emergency in Tokyo, Japan, May 26, 2020.REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo’s government on Thursday dropped its coronavirus alert by one notch from the highest level as cases continue to trend down, opening the path for a loosening of restrictions on night-time activity.

The capital raised the alert to “red” in July on the advice of experts following a rise in infections. Tokyo’s daily cases have gradually declined since hitting a peak of 472 cases in early August, with 276 new cases reported on Thursday.

“Regarding the infection situation, we have lowered one level down to orange from the highest level of red. But, we need to be cautious about increases again,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said at a coronavirus response meeting.

Separately, at a national level, a group of experts will convene on Friday to consider the easing of restrictions on large-scale events. That follows appeals from Japan’s top baseball and soccer leagues, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters on Thursday.

The government will also consider adding Tokyo to its “Go To Travel” subsidised domestic tourism campaign, following its exclusion after becoming a coronavirus hotspot.

The campaign was criticised for potentially facilitating the spread of the virus.

Tokyo governor Koike also said the Japanese capital would lift a measure that shortened hours for restaurants and karaokes from Sept. 16, considering the downward trend in the number of new cases.

Reporting by Sam Nussey, Daniel Leussink and Ju-min Park; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Alex Richardson