The Japanese government is considering issuing business suspension requests to host clubs and other nightlife establishments that have not taken sufficient measures to stem the coronavirus spread, a minister in charge of coronavirus response said Tuesday.
The move indicated by Yasutoshi Nishimura comes amid a rising number of confirmed cases related to those establishments, particularly in major commercial and entertainment districts in Tokyo, fueling increasing concerns among the public of a resurgence of the pandemic.
Tokyo on Tuesday confirmed 143 new coronavirus infections, remaining below 200 for the second day in a row, Gov. Yuriko Koike said. But the three-digit figure is by far the most among Japan's 47 prefectures.
The daily figures announced by the metropolitan government reflect the most recent totals reported by health authorities and medical institutions in the capital.
The increase has brought the total to 8,189 in the capital, while the nationwide tally stood at 22,532, up 334 from the previous day with 984 deaths, excluding 712 from the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama near Tokyo in February.
Prior to Monday, new cases in Tokyo had topped 200 for a record four straight days, hitting a single-day high of 243 last Friday.
Nishimura said at a press conference that a subcommittee of the government's coronavirus task force will hold a meeting in the near future to consult with experts before deciding how to address the surge.
The envisioned business suspension requests are voluntary with no penalties imposed for noncompliance, and will target establishments not enforcing guidelines such as mask-wearing and ventilating venues. Customers will also be asked not to patronize establishments not abiding by the guidelines.
Requests for businesses to temporarily close fall under the authority of prefectural governors as granted by an act on special measures related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Some local governments have already made moves to address the growing number of new infections in their jurisdiction, with Saitama Prefecture on Monday issuing business suspension requests to nightlife establishments not doing enough to stem the spread of the virus.
Nishimura said the central government will also reconsider its decision to further ease spectator limits at pro sports and other events around Aug. 1 after consulting with experts.
Japan last Friday relaxed its guidance for spectators at concerts and other events to a maximum of 5,000 from the previous 1,000, while the capacity at indoor venues must be kept at 50 percent or below the usual level.
Meanwhile, tourism minister Kazuyoshi Akaba said in a press conference Tuesday the government will only provide subsidies to accommodations and tour packages that take measures to prevent the coronavirus spread in a campaign starting on July 22 to boost domestic tourism.
Amid growing concerns by local governments and opposition parties over a resurgence of infections, the government added anti-virus measures as a condition to join the Go To Travel Campaign, which will eventually subsidize up to half of the expenses, including accommodation and transport fees.
"It's important to establish a safe and secure travel style," Akaba said. Under the program, the government will initially subsidize 35 percent of total costs.
While acknowledging the potential economic benefits, Yamagata Gov. Mieko Yoshimura criticized the campaign as ill-timed given the increase in new coronavirus cases in the Tokyo metropolitan area and torrential rain in parts of the country.
"I get the sense a second wave is on the way, and I'd like regions to do what's best for our local conditions," she said.
The anti-virus measures required for the campaign will include limiting the number of visitors at accommodations to avoid closed spaces, crowded places and close contact with people, as well as checking body temperatures of guests and establish a hotline with the local health center, he said. The details will be released on Friday.