National

Osaka to decide Monday whether to issue business suspension request

Jiji

Osaka Prefecture will make a final decision Monday on whether to issue a business suspension request under a state of emergency over the new coronavirus, according to Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura.

While making the remark on Friday, the governor also said it is “difficult” for Osaka to provide financial relief from its own funds to business operators who follow the suspension request, as planned by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which has more financial resources at its disposal.

Before making its decision, the Osaka Prefectural Government is expected to assess the situation in the prefecture based on the national government’s target of reducing human-to-human contact by 70 to 80 percent.

“If we’re not going to achieve it, we need to take broad-based and stronger measures,” Yoshimura told reporters.

On Friday, the number of coronavirus infection cases in Osaka Prefecture rose by 80, bringing the total to 696. “We believe we’ve entered a new phase,” the governor said.

The prefectural government released the same day a list of facilities that would be subject to the possible suspension request, covering the same business sectors as included in the metropolitan government’s list.

Yoshimura expressed hope that affected business operators would make preparations over the weekend.

The list includes hostess bars, pachinko parlors, internet cafes, live music venues and sports clubs but excludes hair salons and barber shops.

Meanwhile, izakaya (traditional Japanese pubs) would be asked to close at 8 p.m. at the latest and stop serving alcoholic drinks by 7 p.m.

The Osaka government would ask for cooperation from local hotel operators as business suspensions would create issues for homeless people who have been staying at internet cafes.

Nurseries and after-school child care centers will be kept open regardless of whether the request is made. The Osaka government will ask municipalities in the prefecture to maintain the same policy.

Osaka and Tokyo are among the seven prefectures under the state of emergency declared by the central government Tuesday to step up the fight against COVID-19.

In Fukuoka Prefecture, also among the seven, Gov. Hiroshi Ogawa said Friday that the prefecture will make its decision Monday on whether to issue a business suspension request.

In Hyogo Prefecture, a neighbor of Osaka and also a target of the emergency declaration, Gov. Toshizo Ido did not rule out the possibility of acting in step with Osaka, though he said the current situation does not warrant a rapid decision.

Meanwhile, Aichi Prefecture, which is not under the government’s state of emergency declaration, made its own declaration Friday to step up its fight against the virus’s spread.

The declaration, not based on any specific law or linked with the national government’s move, urges residents of the prefecture to avoid going out for nonessential purposes.

It will be effective until May 6, when the Golden Week holiday period ends.

The closure of elementary and junior high schools as well as prefectural senior high schools will be extended until May 6.

The Aichi government decided to issue its own emergency declaration on Friday.

“We are in a critical situation as the number of coronavirus patients started surging in early April,” Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura told the meeting.

“We ask for the support and cooperation of residents in order to overcome this difficult situation,” he added.

On Friday, neighboring Gifu Prefecture also declared its own state of emergency.

Gifu Gov. Hajime Furuta said the best defense against COVID-19 is to refrain from going out and keeping a safe distance away from others, calling on residents to exercise self-restraint.

Separately, Kyoto Gov. Takatoshi Nishiwaki said Friday that he will ask the central government to add the prefecture to the list of prefectures covered by the central government’s declaration.

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