A voluntary request to have food establishments in the capital’s central 23 wards operate under reduced business hours will be extended into next month, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike announced Thursday.
Restaurants and eateries in Tokyo, including those that serve alcohol, had been asked to close at 10 p.m. to reduce the risk of further coronavirus infections from Aug. 3. Those located within the capital’s 23 wards have been asked to continue limiting business hours until Sept. 15. Those that comply will receive a cash handout of ¥150,000.
Food establishments located outside of the 23 wards will be exempted from the request from Monday.
“At this stage, it’s too early to lift restrictive measures,” Koike said during a meeting of the metropolitan government’s coronavirus task force Thursday. “The number of new cases is declining but the rate of decline, and the increasing number of severe cases, is concerning.”
Tokyo officials said new cases are declining in the capital but untraceable infections are still concerning, and sustained caution is necessary to maintain that trend and protect the city’s health care system.
Tokyo reported 250 additional cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the capital’s total past 20,000 infections.
But the second wave of COVID-19 appears to be winding down.
Shigeru Omi, head of government’s coronavirus subcommittee, said last week the nationwide outbreak seems to have peaked in late July.
New cases are still emerging everyday but, as the contagion continues to lose momentum, towns, cities and other urban centers in the country are looking to balance public health and economic recovery as virus countermeasures are gradually lifted.
The voluntary nature of countermeasures in Japan has led to issues with compliance, especially over long periods of time since local businesses struggling to make ends meet cannot afford to remain closed for long.
In July, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government began issuing rainbow-colored stickers for food establishments claiming to uphold virus countermeasures to place on their storefront windows.
But officials can’t check every store in the city, making it difficult — if not impossible — for compliance to be ensured. Even in the past two weeks, small clusters have been reported in bars and restaurants displaying the stickers.
In an attempt to overcome this issue, Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward began using a two-level ranking system this week that lists food establishments in order of the degree to which they’ve implemented virus countermeasures.
Businesses that are maintaining said countermeasures according to the metropolitan government’s requests will be designated a “Class 1” location. Those doing so at a higher level — the designation of which will require city officials to visit the site — will be labeled “Class 2.”
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