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Tokyo asks restaurants, bars to shut early as virus spikes

Businesses in Tokyo that serve alcohol and karaoke parlours will be asked to close at 10pm to halt the spread of coronavirus
Businesses in Tokyo that serve alcohol and karaoke parlours will be asked to close at 10pm to halt the spread of coronavirus CHARLY TRIBALLEAU AFP
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Tokyo (AFP)

Tokyo's governor called Thursday for restaurants, bars and karaoke parlours to shut earlier to help contain the coronavirus as the Japanese capital reported a record new number of infections.

"The current situation (in Tokyo) is more serious than before," Yuriko Koike said, citing expert opinions.

"There were several clusters in Tokyo... We have no time to waste."

Japan has so far seen a comparatively small overall outbreak, with almost 32,500 infections and just over 1,000 deaths since the country detected its first COVID-19 case in January.

But the number of infections has been on the rise since the government lifted a state of emergency two months ago.

Businesses in the capital that serve alcohol and karaoke parlours will be asked to close at 10pm, from August 3 until the end of the month, Koike said.

The city's government will offer subsidies of 200,000 yen ($1,900) to medium and small-sized firms that cooperate with the request, she added.

"It's not realistic to ask them to close entirely," she said.

The request is voluntary, with no penalties for those who don't comply, and comes as the capital announced 367 new coronavirus cases, a day after a new single-day nationwide figure of 1,264 cases.

Despite the rise in contagion, the government has said there is no need to reimpose non-compulsory but widely respected calls for people to stay at home and business to close their doors, as seen under the state of emergency.

Many of the new patients are younger people, with the number of severe cases and new deaths so far not spiking, and government officials argue that the healthcare system is not yet facing the prospect of being overwhelmed.

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