The governors of Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa enhanced their responses to the coronavirus pandemic Monday amid a resurgence of infections, less than a month after Japan fully lifted a second COVID-19 state of emergency.
The prevention measures include asking restaurants and bars in densely populated areas to close by 8 p.m. and capping attendance at large events at 5,000. They will last through May 5 for Kyoto and Okinawa, and May 11 for Tokyo.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week decided to grant the governors of the three prefectures the authority to take tougher measures to control the spread of the virus, expanding the list that had designated Osaka and neighboring Hyogo prefectures as well as Miyagi in Japan’s northeast through May 5.
But the central government has stopped short of declaring a third state of emergency, apparently because of potential disruption to preparations for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
The quasi-emergency measures come despite a recent health ministry indicator showing that infections in Osaka, Hyogo, Miyagi and Okinawa have reached Stage 4, the worst level on the central government’s scale that warrants declaring a state of emergency. The conditions in Tokyo and Kyoto were judged as equivalent to Stage 3.
The measures, which opposition parties have criticized for being difficult to understand, also carry a fine for businesses that ignore orders to shorten operating hours. But the amount is smaller than under a state of emergency.
Financial assistance ranging from ¥40,000 to ¥100,000 will be provided per store per day to compliant eating and drinking establishments run by small businesses, while stores operated by large companies will receive up to ¥200,000 a day. Facilities that fail to accept such requests or orders can be fined up to ¥200,000.
The central government introduced the quasi-state of emergency through a legal revision in February as a way to take targeted steps to bring down infections while keeping the economy going as much as possible. Governors can now designate cities and towns for stricter measures, unlike a full-fledged emergency, which covers entire prefectures.
Suga has called on people to refrain from nonessential travel between prefectures, expressing concern that highly contagious variants of the virus could spread during the Golden Week holidays from late April through early May, one of the busiest periods for travel in the country.
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