• KYODO, JIJI

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Prefectural governors nationwide on Saturday asked the central government to provide financial support for businesses across the country, a day after a fresh state of emergency was declared in Tokyo and other areas as coronavirus case numbers surge.

The country needs stronger countermeasures against the pandemic at a time when “highly contagious variants are raging,” Tokushima Gov. Kamon Iizumi, the president of the National Governors’ Association, said during an online meeting.

A set of requests made to the government by the association included financial relief for not only the tourism industry but primary industries such as farming.

Restrictions imposed under the state of emergency in prefectures with major cities will have far-reaching economic consequences, the governors said.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency Friday in Tokyo and the western prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, banning restaurants and bars from serving alcohol, asking department stores and movie theaters to close and barring fans from professional sports from Sunday through May 11.

Suga said Friday that the government aims to secure ¥500 billion for extraordinary grants to local governments, but Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido called the amount “far from enough.”

Fears are growing that more contagious variants of the coronavirus will exacerbate the burden on the already strained health care system after quasi-emergency measures in nearly a dozen prefectures centering on shorter business hours and event attendance caps had a limited impact on slowing new infections.

The governors stressed a need for the government to strongly urge people to refrain from moving across prefectural borders during the Golden Week national holiday period starting late this month.

The state should compensate holidaymakers for their canceled travel plans to substantially reduce the movement of people, the association said in its proposal.

As for coronavirus vaccinations, the association asked the government to clarify details around vaccine distribution to the entire population after Suga unveiled a plan on Friday to complete the delivery of doses for those aged 65 and older by the end of July.

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