Restaurants in Japan face crackdown for skirting COVID curfews

Nikkei -- Feb 14
Japan is stepping up its battle against the coronavirus, with revised legislation taking effect Saturday allowing for fines against violators of safety measures, including restaurants that refuse to shorten hours.

This marks a reversal from earlier measures relying on voluntary compliance. Japan is struggling to keep COVID-19 infections under control despite the state of emergency in place since January for such prefectures as Tokyo and Osaka. The emergency declaration has been extended to March 7.

Governors in designated prefectures -- generally those one tier below the threshold for a state of emergency -- will now be able to impose fines in specific cities and towns. Restaurants and other businesses that ignore requests from the authorities to reduce hours face a fine of up to 300,000 yen ($2,860) in a state of emergency, or up to 200,000 yen where the broadened gubernatorial authority applies.

Restaurants and bars in these areas have been asked to close by 8 p.m. and to stop serving alcoholic beverages at 7 p.m.

"We'll first ask for cooperation," said Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who explained that the metropolitan government will "take all the necessary steps" before imposing fines. Establishments that disregard the request will be asked individually to comply. If a problem persists, an order will be issued. A fine will be levied only if the violator still fails to close early.

- Nikkei