Tokyo again asks restaurants to shorten business hours amid virus
TOKYO. KAZINFORM - Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said Wednesday the metropolitan government will request once again that restaurants serving alcohol shorten their operating hours for about three weeks starting this weekend in response to a recent resurgence in coronavirus infections, Kyodo reports.
The Tokyo government will pay businesses that comply with the request 400,000 yen ($3,800) in financial support. The request will apply to the restaurant sector in most parts of the metropolis between Saturday and Dec. 17.
«The capital is in a very serious situation in terms of infections,» Koike told a press conference. «I understand that the current situation makes it necessary for the imposition of further measures.»
The metropolitan government made a similar request for such establishments and karaoke venues to close by 10 p.m. in August but extended it until mid-September in the capital's central 23 wards.
The Tokyo government provided 200,000 yen to restaurant operators that complied in August and an additional 150,000 yen the following month.
The metropolitan government believes the cut in business hours will prove effective in preventing infections, given that its previous request led to a decrease in the number of people in nightlife districts and a decline in new cases, Koike said.
The Japanese capital is seeing record numbers of virus infections, with more than 500 new daily infections logged for three straight days last week.
Koike urged residents to refrain from going out as much as possible and asked them to take all possible countermeasures when going outside.
However, she did not call for the exclusion of Tokyo from the central government's domestic travel subsidy program as the governors of Hokkaido and Osaka did for their areas, saying it was a decision that the central government should make.
On Tuesday, the Japanese government decided to halt new reservations for trips to Sapporo on the country's northernmost main island of Hokkaido and the city of Osaka in western Japan under the «Go To Travel» subsidy campaign for three weeks through Dec. 15 after both reported record numbers of daily infections.
Meanwhile, the metropolitan government will halt the issuance and sale of discount coupons under a separate state-run subsidy program, dubbed «Go To Eat,» aimed at encouraging dining out.
Tokyo's request to shorten opening hours came after it confirmed 401 new cases of infection the same day. The number of people who have fallen seriously ill after contracting the virus hit 54, as the capital continues to see the highest level since a state of emergency declared over the virus was lifted in late May.
Last Thursday, the Tokyo metropolitan government raised its virus alert to the highest of four levels, which was last in place until Sept. 10.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, meanwhile, countered the view that the economy-boosting tourism campaign has caused the nation's recent coronavirus resurgence by promoting greater movement of people.
«It is a fact that 'Go To Travel' is providing support to local economies,» Suga said in parliament. He referred to the opinion of a coronavirus expert panel last Friday that found no evidence showing the campaign was a major cause of the spread of the virus.
Koike held talks with Suga and Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of Japan's virus response, on the capital's coronavirus response Tuesday.
As for the central government's financial aid for businesses complying with requests for shorter operating hours, it previously said that up to 20 percent of all establishments within each prefecture would be eligible for assistance.
But Nishimura said in a news conference Tuesday the central government will boost the support plan by removing the ceiling to prompt more local governments to request shorter business hours in the event of a surge in infections.