Japan extends calls to avoid nightclubs, bars to all prefectures

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan will allow governors of all 47 prefectures to request that their residents refrain from visiting nightclubs, hostess bars and busy downtown spots in a push to prevent cluster infections of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday.

At present, Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures for which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency over the surge in virus infection are subject to the request.

The request made by Abe during a meeting on coronavirus countermeasures Saturday, however, is not legally binding.

During the meeting, the government agreed to revise its basic policy to fight the virus so that the governors of the 40 other prefectures can issue the request in a stronger fashion.

While the current policy says authorities can ask the public to refrain from going out, the revision would further clarify containment measures, although likely still on a voluntary basis.

According to experts, nightclubs and hostess bars provide an environment ripe for infection as crowds are crammed into an enclosed space in close contact.

Contact tracing is also difficult for clusters that arise from such situations.

For Tokyo, Osaka and the five other prefectures for which a state of emergency has been declared, the basic policy dictates that government officials can “strongly” urge residents to refrain from going to restaurants and bars with female companions for male customers, regardless of age.

In addition to nightclubs, Tokyo has also requested karaoke venues and internet cafes to suspend operations during the state of emergency.

Chiba Prefecture, which is also covered under the state of emergency, said Saturday it will also request facilities to suspend operations as early as next week.

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