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Japanese companies are stepping up their countermeasures against the coronavirus as new cases are rapidly increasing in the country.

Steps in place include reducing the number of workers at the office and requesting staff members to avoid year-end and New Year’s parties, with some firms going as far as to ban them.

After the government stressed in late November that the coming three weeks would be critical to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further, major shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. reduced its proportion of workers coming into offices from 50% to 30%.

SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. instructed its employees not to hold year-end parties, while au Kabucom Securities Co. effectively banned year-end, New Year’s and other parties among employees.

According to a survey conducted by Tokyo Shoko Research Ltd. earlier this month, 94.2% of the 9,970 responding companies plan to skip year-end and New Year’s parties, up 6.3 percentage points from the previous survey carried out in the first half of November.

By prefecture, the rate was highest in Yamanashi at 98.6%, and lowest in Akita, at 83.0%.

The rate stood at 96.9% in Hokkaido, 96% in Osaka and 94.5% in Tokyo. The three prefectures are seeing rapid growth in the number of newly confirmed infections.

Meanwhile, the proportion of people working remotely fell to some 20% in July from around 30% in May, when the government’s state of emergency over the coronavirus was in place, according to a survey by the Japan Productivity Center. The rate dropped below 20% in October.

But some companies are starting to again reduce the number of employees working at offices.

Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. advised employees to take paid holidays around the holidays to enable them to take up to 18 and 17 straight days off, respectively.

Grocers Summit Inc., a unit of major trader Sumitomo Corp., and Inageya Co. are set to extend their store closures at the start of the new year.

Many companies have kept strict measures in place even after the lifting of the emergency declaration, with an official of a machinery-maker saying, “It’s difficult to take further measures unless a state of emergency is issued again.”

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