School closures due to the coronavirus outbreak are exacerbating manpower shortages at retailers and restaurants, forcing them to cut their business hours.
The emergency closures of elementary through high schools began Monday. They are to remain shut until spring break ends in April.
Many working parents with elementary school kids found themselves unable to go to work as usual, adding fuel to labor shortages already plaguing retailers, restaurant chains and other enterprises.
Supermarket operator Life Corp. has decided to open all of its 275 stores at 10 a.m., 30 minutes to one hour later than usual, until March 31 as the school closures make it difficult for many part-time employees to come to work early in the morning.
It will also close some 30 percent of its stores one to two hours earlier.
“We have no choice but to give consideration to the family situations of our employees,” a company official said.
Aeon Mall Co., which runs some 140 shopping malls nationwide, will shorten operating hours of specialty sections to between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. starting Tuesday.
Gyūdon beef bowl restaurant operator Yoshinoya Co. has stopped offering menu items that take time to cook at some of its restaurants, expecting an increase in staff unable to work due to the school closures.
Limited menus have also been started at some Sukiya restaurants under the wing of Zensho Holdings Co.
Many department store operators are shortening their service hours to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection.
Odakyu Department Store Co. and Tobu Department Store Co. have decided to shorten operating hours at stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
“Both the government and the company are making decisions too suddenly,” a female employee of a department store in Tokyo said.
Meanwhile, easy-to-cook frozen food products and instant noodles are running in short supply at retail stores across the country as demand soars owing to the school closures.
“Some products are out of stock at some stores, as distribution has failed to keep up with a surge in sales. But there is no problem with stocks except for masks,” an official of a major supermarket said, adding that consumers should remain calm.
Iyo Bank of Ehime Prefecture halted counter operations at its Ainan branch after an employee contracted the virus.
Asahi Mutual Life Insurance Co. decided to temporarily close its Sapporo Kita sales outlet in Sapporo following the infection of a worker.
The Financial Services Agency is asking financial institutions to provide customer services at other outlets if a branch has to be closed for disinfection or other unavoidable reasons.
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