Kobe/Yokohama – Four pachinko parlors in Kobe and Yokohama received the first business suspension orders of the coronavirus pandemic Friday after defying government requests to close to curb the virus's spread.
The nonbinding orders were issued to three establishments by the Hyogo Prefectural Government and to one establishment by the Kanagawa Prefectural Government.
The orders were issued based on Article 45 of the special measures law to combat new influenza strains, which was revised this year to include the novel coronavirus.
The orders, provided for under the third paragraph, represent an administrative action stronger than a business suspension request issued under the second paragraph. But no penalties have been set for violators.
"We asked them yesterday to cooperate with our business suspension requests, and we ordered them to shut based on the law today after confirming that they remained open this morning," Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido said at a meeting of the prefectural government's coronavirus response headquarters Friday.
From Monday to Tuesday, Hyogo asked seven pachinko parlors to close based on the second paragraph of Article 45 after they refused to comply with an earlier suspension request made under a different article. It then published their names in an attempt to shame them. Three of the seven are in Kobe, while four are in Toyooka and the town of Sayo.
By 11 a.m. Friday, prefectural officials found the parlors in Toyooka and Sayo shut but could not confirm the Kobe parlors had closed.
Asked about the orders' lack of teeth, Ido told reporters, "We'll tell the central government that we need coercive powers as they do not obey the suspension orders."
The defiant parlor in Yokohama meanwhile "did not seem to be ready to meet our suspension requests," Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa said at a news conference. "The parlor was crowded, the air ventilation there was poor, and it gave no consideration to anti-infection measures."
The Kanagawa Prefectural Government later confirmed that the establishment was still open, and a prefectural official handed the suspension notice to a worker in lieu of the manager, who was absent.
A customer of one of the three Kobe parlors said it was more crowded than usual.
"If the parlor is closed, I'll have nowhere to go," the corporate worker in his 20s said.
Visiting the Yokohama parlor to hand over the suspension order, a Kanagawa official said that the risk of a cluster infection developing were high at the shop.
According to the official, the owner did not agree with the order, claiming it would face difficulties paying fixed costs if it suspends operations.
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