Restaurant and tour operators in Tokyo hoping for a pickup in business over the summer were left reeling Thursday after the Japanese government decided to declare a fourth coronavirus state of emergency in the capital.
With the declaration, effective from Monday to Aug. 22, coming just two weeks before the Summer Olympics open, some also expressed frustration over perceived double standards, as dining establishments will be requested to stop serving alcohol while sports competitions will be held late into the night.
"It never ends, I'm at my wits' end," said Kenichi Ushijima, the 58-year-old owner of a Japanese-style "izakaya" pub in Tokyo's Shimbashi district who said he has been diligently following anti-infection rules set by the metropolitan government.
Customers had slowly started to return after the previous state of emergency was lifted on June 20, Ushijima said, but with another emergency starting next week, it will all be for naught.
"If we can't serve alcohol, we can't do business. Why does (the government) keep shifting its failure to control the virus onto restaurants?" he said.
Hato Bus Co. has suspended most of its tours around Tokyo since the beginning of the year due to the precarious situation. Only one of the 70 to 80 bus tours the company normally runs in Tokyo is currently in operation, with only a few dozen passengers per day.
"We had hoped that travel demand would recover during the summer holidays, so we are very disappointed. There's nothing we can do about it, but it's frustrating," a company spokesperson said.
Shigeto Yonemura, a professor of civil and medical law at a graduate school of the University of Tokyo, criticized the government for "repeating the same thing over and over again."
"It will be difficult to gain public understanding if the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are the only events allowed to go ahead while other large-scale events are canceled due to the declaration," he said.
But Haruo Ozaki, the head of the Tokyo Medical Association, defended the decision, saying it was the only time a declaration could be made given the rise in cases. Despite vaccinations of the elderly progressing, the health care system would still be strained if the number of infections increases, he said.
"Thorough measures should be taken at airports to prevent variant strains from entering the country, as well as cluster outbreaks in the athletes' village," Ozaki said, adding the Olympics should be held without spectators.