The Japanese government is considering issuing business suspension requests to host clubs and other similar establishments that have not taken sufficient measures to stem a recent surge in coronavirus infections, a minister said Tuesday.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government confirmed 143 new coronavirus infections in the capital on Tuesday, marking less than 150 cases for a second day, Gov. Yuriko Koike said.
Worries over a resurgence of the pandemic have been heightened in recent days after more than 200 cases were reported for a fourth straight day through Sunday, including a daily record of 243 logged last Friday.
Cumulative cases in Tokyo rose to 8,189, accounting for more than a third of the nationwide tally of over 22,000.
Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is also in charge of the coronavirus response, said at a news conference that a subcommittee of the government’s coronavirus task force will hold a meeting in the near future to consult with experts before deciding how to address the surge.
The envisioned business suspension requests are voluntary with no penalties imposed for noncompliance, and will target establishments not enforcing guidelines such as mask-wearing and ventilating venues. Customers will also be asked to not visit establishments that don’t abide by the guidelines.
Requests for businesses to temporarily close fall under the authority of prefectural governors as granted by an act on special measures related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Some local governments have already made moves to address the growing number of new infections in their jurisdiction, with Saitama Prefecture on Monday issuing business suspension requests to nightlife establishments not doing enough to stem the spread of the virus.
The metropolitan government said that about 50 performers and staff, as well as about 800 spectators, were likely to have been exposed to the virus at a theater in Shinjuku. Officials recommended that they undergo coronavirus testing.
According to the event organizer, 30 performers, staff and spectators were reported as testing positive for the virus by Monday. The performance was held twice a day from June 30 to July 5.
The cluster infection came as the government last Friday relaxed its guidance for spectators at concerts and other events to a maximum of 5,000 from the previous 1,000, as long as the number of spectators is restricted to 50 percent of capacity.
Koike and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga have been trading barbs, blaming each other for a recent spike in new infections.
The number of nationwide infections has been on the rise as well. Nationwide, 261 new infections were confirmed on Monday, raising the total number of cases, including those aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, to 22,910 with 997 deaths.
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