TOKYO • The Tokyo government yesterday unveiled a plan to offer nightclubs subsidies to close as new coronavirus cases in the Japanese capital hit a single-day record of over 220, with many linked to entertainment districts.
The Tokyo metropolitan government will give 500,000 yen (S$6,500) to nightclubs and other venues – including so-called host and hostess bars – if they close for more than 10 days, local media reported.
Host and hostess bars offer guests the chance for flirtatious conversation with attractive companions, alongside high-priced drinks. The bars are often used by businessmen to entertain clients.
Ms Kaori Kohga, head of the industry association representing hostesses and clubs, gave the announcement a lukewarm reception. “It’s a good start,” she told Agence France-Presse.
“But 500,000 yen per club is not sufficient to curb the cases in these districts. Money may go only to clubs, not individual hostesses.”
The measure came after a fresh surge in infections in Tokyo, particularly in major commercial and entertainment districts, including Shinjuku.
The authorities said the number of new cases reached a single-day record of 224 yesterday.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said increased testing had led to the surge, with the authorities encouraging night-time businesses to voluntarily test their staff.
Ms Koike said she wants to boost testing capacity to 10,000 cases a day. She called on people to avoid areas that meet the “Three Cs” – closed spaces, crowded spaces and close-contact settings – and encouraged people at parties not to drink from the same glass.
Despite the record number and recent rises in cases, the government said there is no need to reimpose restrictions.
Plans to further loosen rules on mass gatherings would go ahead today, said government spokesman Yoshihide Suga.
Baseball stadiums will be able to admit 5,000 spectators – or 50 per cent capacity, whichever number is smaller. But fans are expected to be asked to wear masks and avoid shouting.
The spike in new cases yesterday came as a shock after the figure had dropped below 100 on Wednesday for the first time in a week.
Ms Koike had earlier warned that the day’s figure may be very high, while Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said figures today could also be significant.
Officials have argued that the recent spike in cases is different from the situation in April, as most of those infected now are people in their 20s and 30s, who are less likely to fall severely ill. The healthcare system is not under strain and more infection cases can be traced, they have said.
Japan has had a relatively small coronavirus outbreak, with just over 20,000 recorded cases and a total of 981 deaths. Tokyo makes up around a third of the total confirmed cases in Japan.
In April, a spike in infections prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare a nationwide state of emergency, handing Tokyo and other regional governors the power to ask people to stay indoors and call for businesses to close.
He lifted the emergency declaration in late May as the outbreak appeared to slow, but said it would take “quite a long time” for the country to fully return to normal.
The epidemic has already forced a one-year delay to the summer Tokyo Olympics as well as caused the suspension of activities ranging from sumo to a summer high-school baseball tournament – an enormously popular event that gets extensive television coverage.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG