Japan Threatens Clubs With Closure as Tokyo Sees 143 More Cases

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Japan’s government is striking a harsher tone to clamp down on infections at nighttime establishments as the capital Tokyo continues to report more than 100 coronavirus cases a day.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who heads the government’s virus response, urged bars and clubs that have face-to-face interactions with clients to follow the government’s guidelines for preventing the spread of infections, and said that establishments that don’t comply could be asked to close.

Nishimura’s remarks on Tuesday came before Tokyo reported another 143 coronavirus cases, the second consecutive day that cases fell below 200, after breaching that marker for four days straight through the weekend. Resurgences are flaring up across the region and new outbreaks in Hong Kong and Melbourne, Australia, have caused officials there to re-impose lockdowns and social distancing measures.

Unlike in most other jurisdictions, Japanese authorities have no legal power to force establishments to close, and requests to shut down would likely require compensation.

“We need to ensure that this wave does not get any bigger and trigger a state of emergency,” Nishimura told reporters. “I feel we are approaching the stage” where targeted requests for establishments to close are necessary, he said, adding that concrete steps would be decided after consulting with governors in Tokyo and its neighboring prefectures.

The latest infections in Japan have largely been tied to the Tokyo area, but the surrounding prefectures of Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba are also starting to see increased reports of Covid-19. Nishimura said “many” tests were again conducted on Monday on people with exposure to nightlife establishments such as host and hostess clubs in Tokyo’s Shinjuku, though the number of tests conducted was not immediately available.

Beyond the nightlife scene where patrons interact closely with staff including sharing drinks or singing, officials in recent days have expressed concern over outbreaks in workplaces, theaters and childcare centers. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, announcing Tuesday’s number, said she aimed to further increase the city’s testing capacity.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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