TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan lifted all coronavirus-related curbs on domestic travel on Friday, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling on people to go sightseeing or attend concerts and other events to help the nation’s economy bounce back from a pandemic recession.
Japan began lifting its pandemic lockdown in May as coronavirus infections fell. The latest easing on Thursday comes after the end of an emergency declaration that allowed people to return to work and for bars and restaurants implementing social distancing measures to reopen.
“I would like people, while observing social distancing, to go out on sightseeing trips. We would like you to make an effort to engage in social and economic activity,” Abe said in an address to the country late on Thursday.
The end of a government advisory for people to stay put in infected prefectures or avoid traveling to them should help hotels, resorts and areas that rely heavily on tourism.
Any recovery, however, may be slow because many people are still avoiding crowds and most travel to Japan is still restricted. Only 1,700 foreigners arrived in Japan in May, the lowest number for that time of year since 1964, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.
Japan’s two big airlines, ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines Co., say they are restarting some domestic flights as demand picks up, but both say flight schedules by July will still only be half of what they had planned before the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to ending the domestic travel advisory, Japan is also allowing up to 1,000 people to gather at indoor and outdoor events. Japanese professional baseball teams will also restart games on Friday, although spectators will be locked out.
Japan by Thursday had recorded 17,789 cases of the novel coronavirus with 948 deaths, according to public broadcaster NHK.
Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Stephen Coates