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Koike urges Tokyo residents to step up social distancing for Golden Week

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike pressed residents Friday to step up social distancing efforts over the next two weeks after previous countermeasures produced unsatisfactory results.

The governor asked residents to especially refrain from traveling or going out during Golden Week, one of the busiest holiday seasons.

“Unfortunately, this year’s Golden Week won’t be so golden,” Koike said during a news conference on Friday. “The actions we take now will determine how soon we can return to normal life.”

Starting Saturday, people in the capital have been urged to isolate themselves, avoid nonessential outings and practice social distancing even further leading up to May 6, when the national emergency declaration is slated to be lifted.

Koike asked residents to limit trips to the grocery store to once every three days, and to send one member of the family instead of going in groups. She also asked for further cooperation from businesses, many of which have been partially or completely closed since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency for urban areas on April 7.

In an effort to make self-isolating a little more enjoyable, the city created a website portal sharing content created in collaboration with artists like celebrity “cleaning consultant” Marie Kondo.

“I’m alarmed that efforts to contain the virus have been insufficient,” economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters after a meeting with the government’s virus panel on Wednesday.

Nishimura said coronavirus countermeasures are falling short of the government’s goal to reduce human contact by 80 percent. Moving forward, the central government may allow prefectural governors to impose stricter measures on pachinko parlors and other businesses that aren’t complying with requests to shut down or reduce hours during the national emergency.

On Wednesday, the capital announced a ¥357 billion supplementary budget to compensate small and midsized businesses that comply with the countermeasures. Companies with one location can receive up to ¥500,000 while those with two or more can receive up to ¥1 million. The city began taking applications on Wednesday and will do so until June 15.

As of Friday afternoon, Tokyo had reported more than 3,600 cases of COVID-19, with more than 12,300 cases recorded nationwide.

Osaka Prefecture announced on Friday the names of six pachinko parlors that didn’t comply with requests to close or reduce business hours while the national emergency is in effect. Tokyo Gov. Koike said the city reached out to more than 40 pachinko parlors in the capital that are still running but has not made it clear whether she plans to publicize their names if they don’t comply.

On Friday, the Foreign Ministry raised its travel advisory for 14 countries to Level 3, warning against travel to these areas as the new coronavirus continues to spread globally. The list includes Russia as well as the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the Middle East,

Japan is also expected to impose an entry ban on foreign travelers arriving from these countries. The National Security Council, headed by the prime minister, is expected to finalize the decision soon. The announcement would bring the number of countries and regions subject to travel bans to 87.

Japan has already banned foreign travelers from 73 countries and regions including China, South Korea, the United States and most of Europe.

As of Friday, 91 people aboard the Costa Atlantica, an Italian cruise ship docked in Nagasaki Prefecture, had tested positive for COVID-19. The prefecture said it plans to test all 623 aboard the ship.

The unfolding situation harks back to February, when hundreds aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, a cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama, tested positive for COVID-19 in an episode that shined a light on the health ministry’s lack of oversight and resistance to proactive coronavirus testing.

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