TOKYO -- Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures will ask restaurants, bars and other establishments to reduce their hours for three more weeks until Apr. 21 in a bid to prevent a resurgence in coronavirus cases.
Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures had asked such businesses to close by 9 p.m. until Mar. 31. But their governors in a Wednesday teleconference agreed to extend the request, citing the start of the new school and fiscal year in April as possibly leading to a surge in parties and other gatherings.
The move comes as Japan's greater capital region grapples with how to ease business restrictions after a coronavirus state of emergency was lifted earlier this week.
"It's important for us to come together to encourage basic infection prevention efforts," Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said.
Restaurants and bars that cut hours as requested used to receive 60,000 yen ($550) a day for cooperating under the state of emergency. They now receive 40,000 yen a day, and will continue to receive these payments after Apr. 1.
"To ensure our accomplishments up to this point don't end in vain, we will stay focused and ask for continued cooperation," Saitama Gov. Motohiro Ono said.
Tokyo in particular began asking businesses to cut hours in November, dealing a heavy blow to restaurants, bars and other businesses that depend on a bustling nightlife.
Still, concerns persist of a rebound in infections in the greater capital region. Tokyo logged an average of 309.7 new COVID-19 cases a day for the seven days through Wednesday, up 3.6% from the week prior.
"We are experiencing an uptick in new positive cases," Koike said in a meeting with the Tokyo metropolitan government's coronavirus response team.
Meanwhile, infections have increased in other urban areas in Japan, with Miyagi Prefecture in the northern Tohoku region logging a record 171 new daily cases on Wednesday. The city of Sendai is launching drive-through COVID-19 tests on Thursday.
Establishments that serve alcohol in the city of Yamagata, also in Tohoku, will be asked to close by 9 p.m. starting Saturday.
Additional reporting by Kotaro Itsuki in Sendai and Sho Asayama in Yamagata