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Tokyo Gov. Koike requests restaurants close by 10 as COVID rages

Prime Minister Suga defends Go To Travel campaign despite resurgence

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike says eateries that comply with the Japanese capital's request will receive up to $3,800 in financial support. 

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said Wednesday the metropolitan government will request once again that restaurants serving alcohol shorten their operating hours for about three weeks starting this weekend in response to a recent resurgence in coronavirus infections.

The Tokyo government will pay a restaurant that complies with the request up to 400,000 yen ($3,800) in financial support. The request will apply to the restaurant industry in most parts of the metropolis between Saturday and Dec. 17.

The metropolitan government made a similar request for such establishments and karaoke venues to close by 10 p.m. in August but extended it until mid-September in the capital's central 23 wards.

The Tokyo government provided 200,000 yen to compliant restaurant operators in August and an additional 150,000 yen the following month.

Speaking at a press conference, Koike did not call for the exclusion of Tokyo from the central government's domestic travel subsidy program as the governors of Hokkaido and Osaka did for their jurisdictions.

On Tuesday, the Japanese government decided to halt new reservations for trips to Sapporo on the country's northernmost main island of Hokkaido and the city of Osaka in western Japan under the "Go To Travel" subsidy campaign for three weeks through Dec. 15 after both reported record numbers of new daily infections.

Meanwhile, the metropolitan government will halt the issuance and sale of discount coupons under a separate state-run subsidy program, dubbed "Go To Eat," aimed at encouraging dining out.

Tokyo's request to shorten opening hours came after it confirmed 401 new cases of infection on the same day. The number of patients who have fallen seriously ill after contracting the virus hit 54, as the capital continues to see the highest level since a state of emergency over the virus was lifted in late May.

Last Thursday, the Tokyo metropolitan government raised its virus alert to the highest of four levels, which was last in place until Sept. 10.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, meanwhile, countered the view that the economy-boosting tourism campaign has caused the nation's recent coronavirus resurgence by promoting greater movement of people.

"It is a fact that 'Go To Travel' is providing support to local economies," Suga said in parliament. He referred to the opinion of a coronavirus expert panel last Friday that found no evidence showing the campaign is a major cause of the virus's spread.

Koike held talks with Suga and Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of Japan's virus response, over the capital's coronavirus response on Tuesday.

As for the central government's financial aid for businesses complying with the request for shorter operating hours, the state has said up to 20% of all establishments within each prefecture were eligible for assistance.

But Nishimura said in a news conference Tuesday the central government will boost the support plan by removing the ceiling to prompt more local governments to request shorter business hours in case of a surge in infections.

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