Of all new infections confirmed in Tokyo in the week through Wednesday, 44 percent were traced to establishments where “food and drinks are provided along with company”, chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said – an oblique reference to spots such as “host bars” where male hosts are paid to flirt with female patrons over drinks.
But despite the spike, the number of serious cases is declining and there was no need to reinstate the state of emergency that was lifted on May 25, Mr Suga said.
Japan’s infection rates remain far below many other countries but the rising number of cases and the possibility of renewed restrictions have put authorities and businesses on edge.
Tokyo is on amber alert, the third most severe in a four rank scale.
Its medical facilities are ranked at the lesser yellow level, indicating they are not in immediate risk of being overwhelmed.
“We will prevent the spread of infection while maintaining daily life,” said Governor Yuriko Koike, Tokyo’s first female governor who is expected to win a second term in an election on Sunday after a campaign dominated by the pandemic.
Preventive measures have already pushed Japan’s economy into a recession in the first quarter, with a deeper contraction expected in the April-June quarter.
The state of emergency gave governors of Japan’s 47 prefectures stronger legal authority to urge people to stay home and businesses to close, but there were no fines or arrests for non-compliance.
The government is considering revising the law to strengthen enforcement of lockdown requests, Jiji news agency reported, adding that it would aim to submit a bill before or during the ordinary session of parliament next year.
• A Japanese performance group is starting a run of drive-in horror shows for people who are scared of catching the coronavirus but still want to get close-up frights from ghouls and zombies.
Audience members will drive into a garage in Tokyo, one car at a time, and listen to a murder story and sound effects blared out of speakers, as actors dressed as monsters bang on the side of the vehicle and spray fake blood over the windows.
The performance group Kowagarasetai – which roughly translates as the “scare squad” – is hoping to frighten as many as 11 carloads of people a day at weekends in July and hopefully August, coordinator Kenta Iawana said.