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Osaka to ask citizens to avoid drinking in groups of 5 or more


Kyodo News

Osaka and Tokyo, Japan  /  Wed, July 29, 2020  /  11:24 am
Osaka to ask citizens to avoid drinking in groups of 5 or more

People wearing face shields enjoy drinks and food at a Japanese izakaya pub in Osaka, western Japan, May 25, 2020, after the Japanese government lifted the state of emergency in Tokyo and the remaining 5 areas still under alert for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in this photo taken by Kyodo. (REUTERS /Kyodo)

The Osaka prefectural government on Tuesday decided to request its citizens to refrain from drinking in groups of five or more people as the area has been seeing a significant uptick in novel coronavirus infections, with nightlife districts accounting for about 30 percent of new cases in July.

The request will be in effect from Aug. 1 through 20, but gatherings of family members will be excluded from the measure, prefectural government officials said.

Osaka confirmed on Tuesday 155 new cases, a single-day record for the western Japan prefecture, up from 87 announced the previous day. It saw triple-digit single-day cases for five straight days through Sunday.

Japan's minister in charge of the coronavirus response said Tuesday the names of nightlife establishments should be disclosed if infections are confirmed there as a result of insufficient anti-virus measures.

At a meeting with the mayors of six major cities, economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said municipalities should take more stringent measures against nightlife businesses, given Japan has seen a resurgence in new cases on the back of increasing infections at hostess bars and host clubs.

In Japan's hostess bars, women entertain male customers over drinks and flirtatiously chat with them, while in host clubs, men do the same for their female customers.

On Tuesday, the number of new infections reported across the country amounted to 980, the second-highest following the record of 981 marked last Thursday.

Japan's cumulative total of infections topped 32,800, including around 700 cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama in February.

Tokyo, the hardest-hit area in Japan, reported 266 new cases of coronavirus, compared with 131 on Monday when the number slipped below the 200-mark for the first time in seven days.

The Aichi prefectural government confirmed 110 new infections, a single-day record for the central Japan prefecture, Gov. Hideaki Omura said.

Read also: Osaka replaces Paris in new ranking of world's most expensive cities: The Economist

Describing the situation as "very serious" in a news conference, Omura asked Aichi residents to refrain from nonessential activities.

In a video conference with the mayors of Fukuoka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nagoya, Sapporo and Yokohama, Nishimura said the government will discuss how to strengthen measures against the viral spread at a meeting of its coronavirus task force this week.

Nishimura said eating and drinking establishments should comply with guidelines set by the nightlife industry to help block the spread of the pneumonia-causing virus.

If customers or staff members of an establishment that failed to follow the guidelines are confirmed to be infected, the businesses should be named so that customers who visited them can know about the infections, he said.

Currently, local governments only make public the names of such establishments when there is an agreement to do so.

Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa said it is necessary to take "compulsory measures" against businesses reluctant to cooperate with authorities.

Meanwhile, the central government will set uniform standards to allow local governments to take stricter steps against the spread of the virus more quickly, according to sources close to the matter.

The uniform standards are expected to include the ratio of patients in serious condition to available hospital beds and will be discussed at the subcommittee's meeting.