Saturday, January 23, 2021

Tokyo to ask restaurants to shorten business hours again

Nov 26. 2020
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike attends a task force meeting on the novel coronavirus in the Tokyo metropolitan government building on Wednesday. (The Yomiuri Shimbun)
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike attends a task force meeting on the novel coronavirus in the Tokyo metropolitan government building on Wednesday. (The Yomiuri Shimbun)
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By The Japan News/ANN

The Tokyo metropolitan government has decided to ask restaurants that serve alcohol and karaoke establishments to shorten their business hours and close by 10 p.m., in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said at a press conference: “The number of seriously ill patients increased sharply, putting us in a critical situation. In order to protect the lives of the people of Tokyo, I again request the shortening of opening hours.”

Shorter business hours will be requested for 20 days from Saturday through Dec. 17. Establishments that respond to the request will receive daily compensation of ¥20,000 in “cooperation money.”

Regarding the central government’s Go To Travel stimulus campaign, the metropolitan government is not expected to ask the central government to exclude travel packages to and from the capital.

Koike announced the plan at an press conference on Wednesday evening.

The metropolitan government included Tokyo’s 23 wards and cities in the Tama area in the request for shorter business hours.

Regarding the central government’s Go To Eat campaign to support the food industry, the metropolitan government will suspend the issuance of new premium meal coupons from Friday through Dec. 17, and ask residents to refrain from using already issued coupons or points.

In Tokyo, a one-day record of 539 cases of novel coronavirus infections was newly confirmed on Saturday.

Since then, the metropolitan government had considered setting criteria for asking eating establishments and other businesses to reduce working hours.

On Tuesday, the number of seriously ill people in Tokyo reached 51, the highest number since the state of emergency was lifted. This led to the metropolitan government’s decision to request shorter business hours. “We need an emergency response,” a senior official of the Tokyo government said.

The metropolitan government previously asked restaurants and other businesses in Tokyo to shorten their business hours and close by 10 p.m. from Aug. 3 to 31.

It made similar requests for facilities in the 23 wards, located in the center of Tokyo, over Sept. 1-15.

Tuesday was the first day that the number of seriously ill patients infected with the novel coronavirus had exceeded 50 since May 18, when 52 critically ill people were registered during the state of emergency.

Koike met Tuesday with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of measures against the virus, to discuss how to deal with the situation.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the number of seriously ill people has been increasing nationwide, reaching 345 as of midnight Tuesday. The figure hit a record high for the second straight day.

The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients in Tokyo stood at about 30 to 40 a day in November, but on Tuesday the number increased by 10 from the previous day, the Tokyo metropolitan government said. Of the 51 severely ill patients, 41 were aged 60 or older.

The metropolitan government uses its own criteria to define the severity of illness. “It seems that infections spread among elderly people, thus the number of seriously ill elderly patients also increased,” a metropolitan government official said. Tokyo had its highest number of seriously ill patients in late April, at 105.

According to sources related to the metropolitan government, it had considered requesting shorter business hours if the number of occupied beds for such patients reached 50 or 75 out of the total of 150 beds reserved. 

Koike told reporters after meeting with Suga: “The central government had not provided enough information [to us], so I confirmed [the government’s policy]. We will work with the government to take measures.”

Suga and Nishimura, who is also the minister in charge of economic revitalization, called on Koike to consider exempting Tokyo from the Go To Travel campaign and requesting businesses to implement shorter working hours, sources said.

The number of people who were seriously ill nationwide peaked on April 30 at 328, then started to decline. Since early September, the number has remained between 100 and 200, but it has rapidly increased since November.

In Osaka Prefecture, the number reached a record 103 on Tuesday, up by 17 from the previous day.

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