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Economy

Tokyo to pay more to businesses that stay shut until May 31

Gov. Koike announces aid to shop owners starting at $4,700

Tokyo's Kabukicho entertainment district is almost devoid of people on April 13 after the government announces a state of emergency.   © Reuters

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Tokyo metropolitan government said Tuesday it will give more financial aid to small and medium-sized businesses in the capital that agree to its request to suspend operations until the end of this month in an effort to prevent the further spread of the new coronavirus.

The policy for the Japanese capital came a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe extended a nationwide state of emergency, originally due to expire on Wednesday, through May 31.

The scheme and the size of Tokyo's subsidies will be similar to what had been decided before the extension of the state of emergency, involving payouts of 500,000 yen ($4,700) to business owners with a single shop and 1 million yen to those running multiple outlets. The payouts are set to start from next Monday.

"The next one month will have life-or-death importance," Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told a press conference on Tuesday.

Koike will propose a draft extra budget to finance the additional support to the capital's ordinary assembly session in June.

The metropolitan government will additionally earmark some 96 billion yen to assist 130,000 businesses, bringing the total of the aid package to 192 billion yen.

The businesses eligible to receive the financial assistance include restaurants, bars and live music venues, which have been asked by the metropolitan government to suspend operations during the period.

Koike again requested residents limit the frequency of grocery shopping to every three days to prevent supermarkets from becoming too crowded and refrain from going outdoors for nonessential purposes.

Koike also asked companies to implement teleworking and flexible commuting hours as much as possible.

"If we let up now, all the efforts that we have made until now will be meaningless. I ask for support and understanding," Koike said.

The Tokyo government confirmed 58 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, coming below 100 for the third straight day, showing a sign of declining trend.

The total number of infections in the capital stood at around 4,710, the worst among Japan's 47 prefectures.

Nationwide, there were at least 120 reports of new infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to over 16,000, with about 580 deaths.

The state of emergency was declared April 7 first for Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures and later expanded to the rest of the country.

When Abe declared the extension of the state of emergency, he said some of the current constraints on social and economic activities will be eased in prefectures outside the 13 prefectures needing "special caution," which include Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido and Fukuoka.

Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said Tuesday that an experts' panel meeting will be convened around May 14 and May 21 to analyze the margin of decline in infections, as well as the status of medical services in each prefecture, to determine whether the state of emergency should be lifted in some areas before the end of the month.

Nishimura unveiled the outlook at his teleconference with Tokushima Gov. Kamon Iizumi, head of the National Governors' Association, but did not present numerical targets for the removal of the state of emergency.

Besides the 13 prefectures, some such as Aomori and Gunma have already said that they will lift closure requests on Wednesday that they had imposed on major shopping facilities, hotels and outdoor sports facilities.

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