Tokyo urges shorter timings for bars and restaurants in virus fight

The Japanese capital will urge shorter working hours for bars and restaurants and ask residents to stay indoors as much as possible amid a spike in coronavirus cases, Tokyo’s governor said on Wednesday.

The curbs are Japan’s latest bid to rein in its highest surge in infections yet, with daily tallies on several recent days exceeding 500 in Tokyo, where serious cases stood at 51 on Tuesday, the most since a state of emergency was lifted in May.

“We realize this will be a great burden on business owners but we ask for their understanding and cooperation,” said Governor Yuriko Koike, adding that establishments would be eligible for government cash assistance over the 10 p.m. closures, set to run from Saturday until Dec. 17.

Koike, who was speaking at a meeting of a panel to advise on virus fighting measures, will hold a news conference later on Wednesday.

The western city of Osaka, which is among the areas grappling with similar surges, featured along with Sapporo in a domestic “Go To Travel” promotion campaign that was partially halted on Tuesday.

Osaka is also asking bars and restaurants to shorten their hours, its mayor, Ichiro Matsui, said.

“We have got to extinguish this,” he told a news conference on Wednesday.

“I understand that the situation makes it hard for owners to keep their businesses going, but we also need to reduce the burden on medical staff, of whom we have a limited number.”

The promotion offering fare and hotel discounts is part of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s efforts to boost regional economies but has been criticised over the risk that it could carry the virus from major cities to the countryside.

Suga’s decision to partially pause the programme, though, has cost him support and could cloud his chances for a long term in office, with critics calling it too little, too late.

Tokyo’s tally of daily infections stood at 401 on Wednesday.

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