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Tokyo sees most coronavirus cases since May 5 as it eases restrictions

Customers dine at a bar in the Yurakucho district of Tokyo on May 29, 2020.

NORIKO HAYASHI/BLOOMBERG

By SHIHO TAKEZAWA | Bloomberg | Published: June 15, 2020

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Tokyo disclosed 47 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the highest since May 5, as the capital eases restrictions and readies to fully reopen the economy.

Thirty-two of the cases were traced to nightclubs and bars, a spokeswoman for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said by phone, with 18 of them coming from a single business establishment in Shinjuku, which houses the city's most well-known entertainment and red-light district. It is yet to be determined where 10 other people contracted the virus. The surge was the result of more proactive testing, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters Sunday.

The jump comes as the Tokyo government is planning to lift all business restrictions on Friday, which would allow nightclubs and live music venues to reopen. While many firms have voluntarily complied with requests to close, with authorities lacking the ability to enforce requests, some establishments continued to operate during the pandemic.

The increase also comes days after the capital entered its final reopening phase and lifted the "Tokyo Alert," which was issued to urge greater vigilance amid a rebound in cases after a state of emergency ended May 25.

"I'd like to deal with it positively," said Yasutoshi Nishimura, economy and fiscal policy minister, about the case spike at a press conference Sunday, with businesses being cooperative and measures taken to prevent a second wave of infections.

On Saturday, Nishimura announced a new policy at nightclubs and bars to contain the spread, according to Nikkei. It reported the policy will include customers being separated from each other and their contact information being checked.

As Japan's economy gradually restarts, Nishimura told NHK on Sunday morning that the government will push for digitalization and support employment with subsidies.