National

Minister says lax nightlife spots should be named if virus cases found

Kyodo

Japan’s minister in charge of the coronavirus response said Tuesday the names of nightlife establishments should be disclosed if infections are confirmed there as a result of insufficient anti-virus measures.

At a meeting with the mayors of six major cities, economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said municipalities should take more stringent measures against nightlife businesses, given the nation has seen a resurgence in new cases on the back of increasing infections at hostess bars and host clubs.

In Japan’s hostess bars, women entertain male customers over drinks and flirtatiously chat with them, while in host clubs, men do the same for their female customers.

New cases topped 30,000 nationwide on Saturday, including around 700 cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama in February, as Tokyo and some other urban areas have seen a spike in infections due in part to cases related to nightlife entertainment districts.

On Tuesday, Tokyo, the hardest-hit area in Japan, reported 266 new cases of coronavirus, compared with 131 on Monday when the number slipped below the 200-mark for the first time in seven days.

Aichi Prefecture reported 109 cases Tuesday, a record single-day tally and the first time for the prefecture to top 100 infections in a day.

“We will discuss how to strengthen countermeasures” at a subcommittee meeting of its coronavirus task force to be held this week, Nishimura said at the outset of the virtual meeting with the mayors of Fukuoka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nagoya, Sapporo and Yokohama.

Nishimura said eating and drinking establishments should comply with guidelines set by the nightlife industry to help block the spread of the virus.

If customers or staff members of an establishment that failed to follow the guidelines are confirmed to be infected, the businesses should be named so that customers who visited them can know about the infections, he said.

Currently, local governments only make public the names of such establishments when there is agreement to do so.

Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa said it is necessary to take “compulsory measures” against businesses reluctant to cooperate with authorities.

Municipalities are trying to conduct group tests on staff at nightlife establishments, but Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi said the city is having a hard time getting them to agree to testing. “Not many places are cooperative,” she said at the meeting.

Meanwhile, the central government will set uniform standards to allow local governments to take stricter steps against the spread of the virus in a swifter manner, according to sources close to the matter.

The uniform standards are expected to include the ratio of patients in serious condition to available hospital beds and will be discussed at the subcommittee’s meeting.

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