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Japan's state of emergency extension forces prefectures to weigh business suspensions

This photo taken in central Aomori on April 29, 2020, shows a sign informing people of a temporary suspension of operations due to the novel coronavirus. (Mainichi/Yudai Hiraka)

Following Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's announcement that the state of emergency that he declared for all of Japan's 47 prefectures due to the novel coronavirus would be extended until May 31, each prefecture was left to decide how to deal with their requests for businesses to suspend operations. The Mainichi Shimbun compiled a list of what their responses have been.

Although the state of emergency declaration deadline is set for May 31, the prime minister has expressed that he may lift the declaration sooner, depending on expert analysis conducted by May 14.

There was a range in the way prefectures responded to the state of emergency extension depending on how much the novel coronavirus had spread in the prefecture.

Eight prefectures -- Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi in northern Japan and Tottori, Shimane, Kagawa, Kochi and Miyazaki in western Japan -- decided they would not extend requests for businesses to suspend operations from May 7 onward. The most common reason given was the drop in the number of newly infected people. Miyagi Prefecture officials cited requests from the business industry as a reason, while officials from Kochi Prefecture said it wanted to limit restrictions on socioeconomic activity to a minimum.

Meanwhile, 18 prefectures will be maintaining their business suspension requests but on a smaller scale. Prefectures including Akita in northern Japan, Niigata on the Sea of Japan coast and Mie in western Japan will follow the national government's policy and continue to request that facilities where clusters of the coronavirus have broken out, such as karaoke bars and boxes, sports clubs and "cabaret club" adult entertainment businesses remain closed.

Officials from Yamaguchi Prefecture in western Japan have decided to single out pachinko parlors, whose continued operation has become a topic of fierce debate primarily in urban centers, as the only type of business which will stay under the prefecture's request for suspended operation. This decision is attributed to the fact that customers from other prefectures are coming to the parlors. Meanwhile, in the central Japan prefecture of Nagano, the suspension was lifted, provided that pachinko parlor operators take full-on infection prevention measures.

The governments of 13 prefectures "under special alert against the virus," including Tokyo, Aichi in central Japan, Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto in western Japan and Fukuoka in southwest Japan, will all maintain their business suspension requests, as the spread of the virus is still ongoing in those areas.

There are some prefectures, such as Nara in western Japan, which have chosen to continue with their business suspension requests because they neighbor these 13 "special alert" prefectures and fear that lifting suspension requests would lead to a spread of the infection within their own prefectural lines.

Additional financial assistance for businesses that are facing an extension on business suspensions has not been decided in most prefectures. However, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has indicated its intention to add to its "cooperation money" that it is distributing to businesses that are cooperating with its request to suspend operations. The neighboring Saitama Prefectural Government also announced May 7 that it would be extending additional aid to businesses.

(Japanese original by Shinji Kurokawa, City News Department)

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