National / Politics

Governors seek state compensation for business closures due to virus

KYODO, STAFF REPORT

Japanese governors on Wednesday urged the state to compensate businesses so they can comply with requests to halt operations and cancel events, a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

The governors, including the chiefs of the seven prefectures covered by the state of emergency that runs through May 6, also called for central government support for the country's health care system to prevent its collapse due to a sudden increase in patients.

Following the governors' request made during an online meeting, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga reiterated at a news conference that individual businesses would not receive compensation for suspending operations.

Suga acknowledged businesses not directly requested to close down under the emergency declaration would be impacted and said the central government plans to provide subsidies to business operators whose earnings drop significantly due to the virus outbreak.

Roughly 56 million people, or about 45 percent of the country's population, in Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka are subject to the emergency declaration, which calls for residents to refrain from nonessential outings and some businesses to shut. There are no legal penalties for noncompliance.

"The government requests for business closures and compensation are two sides of the same coin," Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said during the videoconference of the National Governors' Association task force.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike echoed his view, saying the governors "must work together to strongly urge the state" to pay compensation.

"Unlike natural disasters, (the virus) is an enemy we cannot see, but I'd like to regain our peaceful lives as soon as possible by tackling it together," Koike told the other governors.

The Tokyo metropolitan government is set to release Friday a list of industries and facilities that it will ask to halt operations, while Osaka and the five other prefectures will not immediately make the request of private business facilities.

The governors also said the central government should release guidelines for the length of such business closures and urge people not to flee to areas outside of those covered by the emergency declaration.

Later in the day, the governors of the seven prefectures held a videoconference call with Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister overseeing special measures for the novel coronavirus.

"I want to make an all-out effort and fully cooperate with you all to stamp out this virus," Nishimura said.

Nationwide, the number of cases exceeded 4,750, including 98 deaths. The number is still far smaller than in many European countries and the United States.

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