Metropolitan Tokyo asked some businesses to close and the ancient capital of Kyoto warned tourists to stay away as Japan battles a fast-spreading outbreak of the new coronavirus, amid fears the government’s measures are too little and too late.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said she was targetting a range of businesses for shutdowns from Saturday during a month-long emergency through May 6, after resolving a feud with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s team over the extent of the closures.
Koike had wanted to move sooner but Abe has resisted measures likely to put greater pressure on an economy which is already tipped to fall into recession, fueling concerns that the central government is putting business ahead of people’s lives.
“This will be tough on residents but if we act swiftly, the pain will be short and the outbreak contained quickly,” Koike told a task force meeting on Friday.
Businesses including pachinko parlours and internet cafes are being asked to close and restaurants to shorten their hours. Department stores, home-furnishing centres and barber shops will be exempted, in a concession to the central government.
Abe declared an emergency on Tuesday for Tokyo and six other prefectures but the details and timing of how life would change in the capital were thrashed out in tense inter-governmental talks.
“I thought governors would get authority akin to a CEO but … I feel more like a middle manager,” Koike told reporters in a sign of frustration over central government pressure.
Abe’s move came after a jump in coronavirus cases in Tokyo sparked concern that Japan was headed for the sort of explosive outbreak seen in many other countries.
The number of cases in Japan rose to 5,548 on Thursday, with 108 deaths, NHK said. Tokyo accounted for 1,519 cases, heightening concerns about sluggish action.
The governor of Aichi in Japan’s industrial heartland, which hosts Toyota Motor Corp, declared its own state of emergency on Friday and has asked to be added to the government’s targeted regions. Gifu in central Japan was also poised to issue an emergency declaration and at least one other prefecture was set to do the same, media said.