National

Tokyo announces monthlong action plan to contain coronavirus outbreak

by Ryusei Takahashi

Staff writer

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike revealed on Friday the capital’s overarching plan to conquer the coronavirus outbreak by calling on residents to continue isolating themselves and asking businesses to temporarily close or operate under reduced hours.

Nobody ever thought it would come to this,” Koike said during a news conference on Friday. “It’s imperative that we do everything we can over the next month to prevent the virus from spreading further, and to stop this crisis from worsening.”

Tokyo reported an additional 189 cases on Friday night, bringing the total in the capital well past 1,700 following a string of record-breaking days.

The plan, which takes effect Saturday and lasts until May 6, requests the temporary closure of a long list of businesses and private facilities including universities, schools, athletic facilities, live music venues, concert halls and community centers as well as bars, nightclubs, internet cafes and other nightlife destinations.

Facilities greater than a thousand square meters have been asked to close as well.

The city will provide financial support to businesses that comply with its virus countermeasures, with ¥500,000 available for select businesses with one location and up to ¥1 million for those with more than two. The governor said the eligibility requirements and application process will be announced soon.

A number of facilities and businesses related to health care, child care services, public transit and grocery shopping, among others, have been exempted and instead been asked to operate on reduced or modified hours.

Barbershops can operate as usual while taking appropriate countermeasures, and izakaya (traditional Japanese pubs) have been asked to limit their hours to between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. and to stop selling alcohol by 7 p.m.

Leading up to the announcement on Friday, Tokyo was at odds with neighboring prefectures who said closing a large number of businesses would necessitate the provision of a massive economic support package that only the capital could afford to pay.

The central government pushed back as well, arguing that doing so would fuel anxiety and induce panic-buying and Tokyo should wait two weeks to see if current countermeasures yield encouraging results.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in seven prefectures considered coronavirus hot spots: Tokyo, Osaka, Saitama, Kanagawa, Chiba, Hyogo and Fukuoka.

The government’s declaration will last until May 6, during which time Abe pleaded with residents to stay home and protect their lives to help the country overcome what he called “the biggest crisis since World War II.”

On the same day the declaration was made, the central government announced a record-breaking ¥108 trillion emergency support package to help the economy survive the pandemic.

The package included a ¥4 trillion cash handout that would distribute ¥300,000 to individual households whose incomes have been halved by the outbreak or reduced so much that they would be exempt from paying residential tax.

Some 13 million of the country’s 53 million households were projected to qualify for the handout.

Hours after Abe made his announcement, Gov. Koike called on the city’s 13 million residents to self-isolate until May 6.

The capital announced a ¥23.2 billion supplementary budget to support efforts to bolster testing and treatment capacity as well as provide financial aid for closed schools and residents who have lost their jobs or homes due to the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the capital is logging a steady increase in both untraceable infections and infections involving younger people. Hospitals are straining under the influx, with the infection of doctors and nurses disrupting efforts to get ahead of the spreading virus as well.

Two weeks have passed since Gov. Koike asked residents to stay inside, work remotely and avoid nonessential outings to prevent the virus from spreading further. She first asked residents to isolate themselves over the weekend of March 28 and 29, then extended the request to the following week and subsequent weekend.

While two major train systems in the capital saw a significant drop in traffic during that period, Tokyo officials are doubtful the plan had its intended effect.

Your news needs your support

Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.

Coronavirus banner