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Tokyo, 8 other prefectures ask restaurants to cut hours

Aug 16. 2020
Fire department officials visit a restaurant in Nagoya, Japan, on Aug. 5, 2020, to advise on measures to prevent infections with the novel coronavirus. MUST CREDIT: Yomiuri Shimbun
Fire department officials visit a restaurant in Nagoya, Japan, on Aug. 5, 2020, to advise on measures to prevent infections with the novel coronavirus. MUST CREDIT: Yomiuri Shimbun
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By Syndication Washington Post, The Japan News-Yomiuri · No Author · WORLD, HEALTH, ASIA-PACIFIC, HEALTH-NEWS

Nine prefectures are asking businesses such as restaurants and nightlife establishments to suspend operations or shorten business hours to contain a new spread of coronavirus infections, according to a survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun. The survey, which was completed on Friday, queried all 47 prefectural governments in Japan.

Among the nine prefectures, six have offered some compensation for business suspensions as an incentive to increase the number accepting their requests.

There are no penalties for businesses that refuse these requests from the prefectural governments. For this reason, the National Governors' Association is calling on the central government to revise laws to enable enforceable measures.

After the state of emergency was lifted in May, the nine prefectures made these requests based on the revised law on special measures to fight against new strains of influenza.

They comprise six prefectures that include urban areas with many infections - Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, Aichi, Osaka and Fukuoka - and three prefectures with relatively high numbers of infections per capita: Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Okinawa. They cited the occurrence of infection clusters as the main reason for their requests. In an effort to minimize the impact on economic activities while preventing the spread of infections, many prefectures have limited the types of businesses and areas they are targeting with their requests.

Tokyo and Aichi, Osaka, Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Okinawa prefectures have offered compensation for business suspensions. The amount of compensation offered ranges from ¥50,000 to ¥300,000. These amounts are either flat or maximum payments.

The Aichi prefectural government has asked some restaurants and nightlife spots where employees entertain customers to suspend their operations or shorten their business hours since Aug. 5. The request mainly covers some entertainment districts in central Nagoya.

The prefectural government will pay up to ¥200,000 in the name of "cooperation money" to those who accept the request and comply with guidelines set by industry groups or other entities. It will continue the request until Aug. 24. "More than 80% of businesses accepted our request. However, some refused. If there is a penalty with legal backing, we can enforce it smoothly," an official of the prefectural government said.

The Saitama and Chiba prefectural governments said they will not pay any compensation to any business operators. The main reason they cited is that businesses with inadequate infection control measures are subject to requests for suspension or shorter working hours.

The declaration of a state of emergency by the central government was fully lifted on May 25, but novel coronavirus infections have been spreading again since June. On Tuesday, the National Governors' Association proposed emergency measures to the economic revitalization minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is also in charge of covid-19 countermeasures.

In order to ensure the effectiveness of requests for businesses to suspend operations, the association called for the revision of the special measures law to add punitive provisions and come up with quick measures, similar to suspension orders that can already be used in the event of food poisoning.

The Yamanashi prefectural government asked some nightlife establishments in the prefecture where employees entertain customers to suspend their operations on April 20, before the declaration was lifted. This request was based on the special measures law and will continue until the end of this month, taking into account the infection situation nationwide. The request covers establishments where measures against infection are insufficient, and compensation for suspension has not been offered to such establishments.

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