• Kyodo, Jiji

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The Tokyo Metropolitan Government will ask people working at nightclubs and similar entertainment establishments to regularly take coronavirus tests, Gov. Yuriko Koike said Sunday.

The policy is part of new measures aimed at stemming the spread of the virus in major nightlife areas in Tokyo, such as Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district, she told reporters after holding talks with economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura.

“We want to make sure that people do not catch or transmit the virus also in night (entertainment) districts,” Koike said.

Since the relaxation of social and economic restrictions late last month, a number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases have been connected to so-called host clubs, where women go to drink and pay to be entertained by young men, and other types of bars in Tokyo.

Still, the number has been generally falling on a nationwide level. On Sunday, there were no reported deaths caused by the virus for the first time since March 6, while the number of infections totaled 17,864, up 38 from the previous day.

Koike said Tokyo on Sunday confirmed 14 new cases, with six of them found to be involving people in nightlife districts.

She said the metropolitan government plans to create a checklist to prevent infections and distribute stickers to shops that implement preventive measures.

“There are operators that are seriously working on infection control,” Koike told reporters after the meeting with Nishimura. “We shared the view that it would be important to work with the industry.”

On Saturday, the metropolitan government reported 26 new cases, out of which 12 infected with the virus were male employees, aged in their 20s and 30s, working at the same host club in Shinjuku Ward. Four others were also suspected of being linked to nightlife establishments.

“With the involvement of experts, I’d like to continue working with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government,” Nishimura separately told reporters, referring to their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus in night entertainment districts.

He said the government plans to compile by the next weekend guidelines for making the districts safer amid the spread of the virus.

Nishimura also said the government plans to include the names of speakers in the summaries of future expert panel meetings on the novel coronavirus. The opposition camp had claimed that the way records of the expert panel meetings are kept is inappropriate, as it had only been making meeting summaries without recording the names of speakers instead of creating detailed minutes.

Elsewhere in their talks, Nishimura and Koike agreed to continue promoting teleworking and videoconferencing even after social and economic activities are resumed gradually.

Nishimura also said that the central and metropolitan governments will collaborate in conducting a study into whether sewage samples can be used to detect signs of a spread of novel coronavirus infections.

Tokyo officials call for social distancing Friday in Kabukicho, a red-light district in Shinjuku Ward, following reports that some new infections in the capital have been linked to nightclub workers. | TOMOHIRO OSAKI
Tokyo officials call for social distancing Friday in Kabukicho, a red-light district in Shinjuku Ward, following reports that some new infections in the capital have been linked to nightclub workers. | TOMOHIRO OSAKI

The Japanese government fully ended a nationwide state of emergency on May 25. Tokyo, which has seen the highest number of infections in the country at nearly 5,400, proceeded last Monday with its second stage of loosening business restrictions, including the reopening of most facilities such as cinemas, sports gyms and cram schools.

But just a day later, Koike issued a Tokyo alert warning amid signs of a possible resurgence of infections.

The city, with a population of roughly 14 million, has mapped out a three-step plan to ease virus restrictions, with museums, schools and some sports facilities being reopened in the first phase.

Karaoke boxes and bars will be able to reopen in the third phase of the road map. But businesses regarded as having the “three Cs” of closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings, including nightclubs and live music venues, are not yet part of the three-phase policy.

Still, given that the restrictions are not mandatory, some nightlife establishments in Kabukicho and other areas have stayed open, with their owners saying they cannot afford to continue losing money.

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