Certified restaurants can serve alcohol in 5 prefs.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Tokyo and four nearby prefectures will give restaurants that are certified to have taken proper COVID-19 prevention measures the green light to serve alcoholic beverages while quasi-emergency priority measures are in effect.

Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba and Gunma prefectures decided Wednesday on the details of their requests for the period when the priority measures will be in effect, beginning Friday.

Certified restaurants can stay open until 9 p.m., while uncertified ones can stay open until 8 p.m. in principle, based on the central government’s basic coronavirus policy.

Alcoholic beverages can be served until 8 p.m. in Tokyo, Kanagawa and Gunma prefectures, until 8:30 p.m. in Saitama Prefecture and until 9 p.m. in Chiba Prefecture.

A condition set by Saitama Prefecture is that certified restaurants wishing to serve alcohol should use the government’s “vaccination and testing package” policy. Under that arrangement, only customers who present vaccination certificates or negative test results can order alcoholic beverages.

The group-dining limit is set at no more than four people in principle, but the Tokyo metropolitan government has decided to waive that limit for groups in which all customers present negative test results. Saitama Prefecture sets no upper limit if a business uses the package policy.

Admission to large-scale events is basically capped at 20,000 people in each prefecture, but Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture will not set such a limit if organizers confirm negative test results for all participants.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A news crawl on a building in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, shows the number of infected patients in the capital on Tuesday.

In four of the prefectures, subsidies are higher for uncertified businesses than certified ones for cooperating with local government requests for shorter business hours. However, certified businesses will receive the same amount as uncertified ones if they refrain from serving alcoholic beverages and close by 8 p.m.

Chiba Prefecture will not provide subsidies to uncertified establishments.

Expert: Limit size, not movement

Shigeru Omi, chairman of the government’s COVID-19 expert panel, said Wednesday the key to preventing further outbreaks is to “limit the number of people [in social gatherings] instead of restricting the flow of people overall.”

During the year-end and New Year holidays, many people ate and drank in groups while talking loudly in closed settings, and that is believed to have triggered the current spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, according to Omi.

“We need to limit the number of people at high risk of infection,” Omi said.

He said it was not necessary to refrain from going out or to close restaurants: “It’s fine if you want to dine quietly with four or so people you usually meet.”

According to Omi, the omicron variant spreads rapidly but could also disappear rapidly.

“To maintain medical system and social activities, it’s necessary for each person to avoid any behavior that would pose a high risk of infection, while taking effective measures to reach a low peak of infections quickly,” he said.