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Restaurant patrols start in Kobe as '4th wave' of coronavirus infections hits west Japan

Members of a patrol group check a restaurant's measures to prevent coronavirus infections in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, on April 7, 2021. (Mainichi/Motohiro Inoue)

KOBE -- After the number of new coronavirus infections in the west Japan prefecture of Hyogo hit a record high of 328 on April 7, the prefectural government confirmed that a "fourth wave" of infections has hit the area and that it started restaurant patrols in the prefectural capital of Kobe on the same day.

    People from a range of ages are apparently infected in the prefecture, and among them are many instances within families. The prefectural government warned that the rise in infections "could place limitations on general medical services," and is calling for people to take thorough countermeasures such as wearing masks and avoiding the "three Cs" of confined spaces, crowded places and close contact.

    Following the start of quasi-emergency measures against the coronavirus on April 5 in four cities in Hyogo -- Kobe, Amagasaki, Nishinomiya and Ashiya -- the prefectural government launched a restaurant patrol group in Kobe on April 7 to check if eateries are complying with the government's request to shorten business hours and if they are taking thorough measures to curb infections. Seventy people on average per day will check a total of 16,000 businesses by April 25.

    During the patrols, employees at a commissioned company will check if restaurants are complying with eight items including measures to block airborne droplets, such as installing plastic partitions and urging customers to wear masks. After 8 p.m., they will also check if businesses are following the request to shorten their hours. A team comprising employees at the prefectural and municipal governments will ask for cooperation from those that are not properly carrying out infection prevention measures or shortening their business hours. If they are found still not cooperating during the second round of patrols starting April 26, officials will make another request and issue an order. If businesses do not follow the order, they will be fined up to 200,000 yen (about $1,800).

    Restaurants complying with the measures will later receive a certificate. The prefectural government has begun accepting applications from small- and medium-sized restaurants and accommodation facilities and those managed by individuals for cooperation money of 50,000 yen (about $460) to 100,000 yen (about $910) in subsidies per establishment for taking measures to prevent infections such as installing plastic boards.

    (Japanese original by Motohiro Inoue and Shinya Yamamoto, Kobe Bureau)

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