• Jiji


More and more prefectures in Japan have decided to ask entertainment and other facilities to close temporarily to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The prefectural governments of Akita and Nagano will call for business suspensions from Saturday and Thursday, respectively. The requests by the two prefectures will remain in place until May 6, the final day of the period covered by the central government’s state of emergency declaration over the pandemic.

Facilities subject to the requests include hostess bars, karaoke parlors, game arcades, movie theaters and pachinko parlors. Restaurants, including izakaya pubs, will be asked to stop serving alcohol at 7 p.m. and close at 8 p.m.

As a measure not based on law, the Nagano government will ask hotels mainly catering to tourists to suspend operations.

The Akita government will provide “cooperation money” of up to ¥600,000 each to small companies and the self-employed shuttering operations during the designated period. The Nagano government will make similar payments of ¥300,000 in cooperation with prefectural municipalities.

The state of emergency, declared on April 7, initially targeted seven of the prefectures that had seen a spike in coronavirus infection cases — Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka — and was expanded to cover the entire nation on April 16.

Ibaraki Prefecture, whose business suspension request took effect on Saturday for karaoke, pachinko parlors and other businesses, decided Tuesday to expand the scope of facilities subject to the move to additionally include places such as manga cafes, bowling alleys, driving schools and internet cafes from Wednesday. The number of facilities targeted by the request will expand to about 30,000 from some 2,000.

Ibaraki Gov. Kazuhiko Oigawa said the prefecture is considering allowing internet cafe “refugees,” or long-term residents at such cafes, to stay at facilities owned by the prefectural government during the business suspension request period.

The prefectures of Miyagi, Niigata, Shiga, Nara and Kumamoto also announced their decisions to ask certain business operators to temporarily close and pay financial benefits to operators cooperating with the requests.

The prefectural government of Hiroshima, which will ask for business suspensions from Wednesday, announced a plan to offer up to ¥500,000 in cooperation money to each business that follows the request.

Meanwhile, the central government is considering a stronger business shutdown request for pachinko parlors amid the coronavirus epidemic, as some parlors are still open, defying existing requests by prefectural governors.

“Experts have a strong sense of danger” about the current situation, economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a news conference on the day. “We’re preparing to take stronger measures,” he said.

On Tuesday, a spate of prefectural governors mentioned possible stronger measures against pachinko parlors under the clause.

Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura expressed his readiness to adopt the name-and-shame approach. “We’ll take action against business facilities causing greater anxiety” to people in the prefecture, Yoshimura said.

Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido said his prefecture will watch the situation this week and then consider stronger measures, if pachinko parlors continue to ignore the prefecture’s shutdown request.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, meanwhile, indicated that the metropolitan government will survey pachinko parlors in the capital and individually ask those that are still open to close.


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