Govt approves quasi-emergency measures for 13 prefectures

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Economic revitalization minister Daishiro Yamagiwa makes speech at a subcommittee meeting on basic policy on the novel coronavirus on Wednesday.

The government has decided to apply quasi-emergency priority measures to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus to 13 prefectures, including Tokyo, Kanagawa and Aichi, from Friday to Feb. 13. The decision was made at a meeting of a government task force on Wednesday evening.

Earlier on the day, at a meeting of specialists on basic policy to deal with the pandemic, economic revitalization minister Daishiro Yamagiwa said: “The rapid spread of infections may place heavy burdens on the medical care delivery system in the near future. We need to take measures to prevent the spread of infection as soon as possible.”

The 10 other prefectures covered by priority measures are Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Niigata, Gifu, Mie, Kagawa, Nagasaki, Kumamoto and Miyazaki prefectures. Together with Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Okinawa prefectures, where quasi-emergency measures set to run until Jan. 31 are already in place, 16 prefectures will be under the measures in total.

At the meeting, it was decided that the “vaccine and testing package” that uses vaccination certificates or negative PCR tests to ease restrictions on the number of people in restaurants or at events will be suspended temporarily in principle. However, the package may be continued in a prefecture at the governor’s discretion. If a state of emergency is declared, the package cannot be in place.

Under the priority measures, “certified restaurants” that have been endorsed for their infection prevention measures will basically be required to shorten their operation hours to end at 9 p.m. Each governor will have discretion as to whether restaurants can serve alcoholic beverages. The upper limit for the number of visitors at events with thorough infection control measures will be 20,000. People are discouraged from unnecessary inter-prefectural travel as much as possible.

Under the new basic policy presented at the meeting, prefectural governments will require business operators to install carbon dioxide measuring equipment to use as a guide for ventilation and to allow employees who are at risk of becoming seriously ill to telework. They will also ask businesses that are essential to social and economic activities to continue operating even if many employees are absent.

‘9 p.m. closing time’ in Tokyo

Tokyo and the four prefectures of Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Gunma are currently discussing details for applying the priority measures.

The Tokyo metropolitan government has decided to allow certified restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages until 8 p.m. and shorten their operation hours to end at 9 p.m. It is considering asking noncertified restaurants not to serve alcoholic beverages and to shorten operation hours to end at 8 p.m.

According to the metropolitan government, certified restaurants that do not serve liquor and close at 8 p.m. based on the central government’s policy, will be paid the same level of cooperation fees as noncertified restaurants. These policies are expected to cover Tokyo’s entire geographical area, including remote islands.

Kanagawa Prefecture is expected to set the maximum number of visitors for large-scale events at 20,000, requiring visitors to show their negative PCR test certificates.

Chiba and Gunma prefectures are considering allowing large-scale events to be held with an upper limit on the number of visitors after requiring business operators to submit a plan for infection control measures.

Saitama Prefecture is considering use of the “vaccine and testing package.” If business operators use the package, the maximum number of visitors at events will be same as the maximum capacity of venues. If the program is not used for events, the Saitama government is considering limiting the maximum number to 20,000.