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Osaka and Tokyo have asked bars, karaoke venues and restaurants serving alcohol to shorten business hours to help combat a recent resurgence in coronavirus infections.

The Osaka Prefectural Government made the request for certain parts of the city on Friday, a day after the prefecture saw a record daily total of 12 deaths linked to COVID-19, reports Eric Johnston. Tokyo followed suit a day later, but — despite ¥400,000 in government financial support — many businesses owners are saying they’re undecided or will refuse to participate.

“Our sales had just started recovering. I can understand why the request was made but it is difficult to comply with it during the year’s busiest season,” one pub manager told Kyodo.

The requests came as PM Yoshihide Suga urged travelers from Sapporo and Osaka to refrain from using the government’s Go To Travel campaign, Ryusei Takahashi reports. While some  have blamed the campaign for perpetuating the deadly virus’s spread, experts are divided as to its role in the surging numbers, Bloomberg found.

A Taiwanese restaurant in Shimbashi that decided to comply with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's call to shorten business hours to help combat a recent resurgence of coronavirus infections.  | KYODO
A Taiwanese restaurant in Shimbashi that decided to comply with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s call to shorten business hours to help combat a recent resurgence of coronavirus infections. | KYODO

As Japan grapples with the economic implications of the virus’s third wave, here’s one piece of good news: The labor ministry has decided to extend a special measure that covers part of leave allowances companies pay to furloughed workers until the end of February, Jiji reports.

Beyond the economy, the virus is also forcing the cancelation of the emperor’s annual New Year event at the Imperial Palace, Kyodo reports. It’s the first time the event has been called off since 1990, when the country was mourning the death a year earlier of Emperor Hirohito, the grandfather of the current emperor.

Interestingly, despite the furor earlier in the pandemic over a government decision to ask schools to close, it does not plan to make a similar request in the near future. Instead, Kyodo reports, schools are being asked to exercise “maximum vigilance” and institute preventive measures including adequate ventilation in the winter.

Sunday’s (and Saturday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (20 or over): Tokyo 418 (561), Osaka 381 (463), Hokkaido 192 (252), Kanagawa 151 (215), Saitama 139 (118), Aichi 115 (217), Hyogo 111 (145), Chiba 75 (113), Shizuoka 66 (81), Okinawa 47 (78), Fukuoka 43 (56), Ibaraki 30 (66), Gifu 21 (20). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker

Further reading: COVID-19 updates and Japan COVID-19 story archive

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