Businesses in the Tokyo metropolitan area said Friday’s extension of the coronavirus state of emergency declared for the capital and nearby prefectures was inevitable given the virus situation but fretted over insufficient government aid.
“While I thought re-extension (of the state of emergency) was inevitable, we cannot cover (our losses) with just ¥600,000 in aid,” said 50-year-old Junichi Sasaki, who runs a business based in Yokohama that leases wet towels to restaurants, referring to government funding for small and midsize companies that do business with restaurants affected by the emergency measures.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Friday the emergency would be extended through March 21. The extension comes amid concerns over the availability of hospital beds in some areas and emerging coronavirus variants.
The extension is affecting Sasaki’s business since most of his clients are restaurants and bars, which have been hit hard by the government’s request for them to shorten operating hours. Orders from eateries plunged by 70% from when before the emergency was declared and the company’s sales have been cut in half.
People are also refraining from eating out in groups to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further, dealing a further blow to eateries and other businesses at a time when people would traditionally be making plans for cherry blossom-viewing parties.
The government early last month extended the state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka, Aichi and other prefectures by one month to March 7. It was lifted a week earlier than planned in all prefectures outside the Tokyo metropolitan area at the end of February, as the spread of the virus had sufficiently subsided.
“The situation is hopeless,” said a 42-year-old manager of a franchised izakaya pub in Tokyo’s bustling Shibuya Ward.
In accordance with the declaration of the one-month emergency issued in January, he suspended his business until the end of last month. Sales this year have dropped 90% from a year earlier.
The manager reopened his pub March 1 with shortened business hours as he had expected the emergency would be lifted as planned on Sunday.
However, he expressed understanding of the government’s decision to an extent and urged authorities not to be half-hearted in their measures to tackle the COVID-19 situation.
“If they extend it, they should thoroughly implement (measures) until coronavirus infections are under control,” he said.
Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures have seen some improvement in their situations but it was deemed not enough to lift the state of emergency.
Residents in the affected prefectures offered a range of opinions on the extension.
Yukiko Usei, a 22-year-old Tokyo resident who was waiting for someone in front of Shibuya Station, said the decision was unavoidable. She also said the government needs to proactively give out information about financial support for establishments that comply with restrictions because she feels only the restrictions are being well-publicized.
Under the state of emergency, the government also urges people to refrain from unnecessary outings.
“I understand everyone is trying hard. I just have to wait for infections to decrease and people to come out on the streets again,” said Fusami Nagaoka, a 65-year-old taxi driver in Saitama.
Shoko Tashiro, who was on the way home with her 5-year-old son from his kindergarten in Chiba Prefecture, questioned the duration of the extension, indicating it should be extended through early April, until the end of spring break for students.
Tashiro, who is refraining from nonessential trips outside the home, was concerned that graduation ceremonies for kindergarten students could be canceled if someone gets infected.
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