Photo/Illutration Kuniyoshi Noda, far right, a lawmaker with the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, poses a question to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, far left in the front row, at a session of the Upper House Audit Committee on April 1. (Takeshi Iwashita)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on April 1 dismissed calls for the government to compensate bar and night club operators individually for lost earnings caused by authorities’ requests for them to shut up shop.

On March 30, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike urged bar and night club operators to refrain from opening, citing the high risk of coronavirus transmission in such confined spaces where people gather and converse in close proximity.

“I understand that many operators are calling for compensation, but it will be difficult for the government to do so,” Abe said at a meeting of the Upper House Audit Committee, responding to a question from Kuniyoshi Noda, a lawmaker with the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Despite the prime minister's reluctance to commit to compensation, Abe insisted “the government wants to give assistance to operators so that they can continue with their livelihoods by retaining their jobs and sustain their businesses.”

Though bar and nightclub operators appear left out in the cold, Abe also said the government will increase financial and other assistance to Japan's local regions as they have been hard-hit by a free-fall drop in the number of overseas tourists visiting due to the coronavirus outbreaks.

“The government will address their problems, including providing financial assistance,” the prime minister said, replying to a question from Shoji Maitachi, a legislator of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.

Abe answered questions at the meeting wearing a face mask, his first time to don one in public since the coronavirus outbreak flared.

Many other Cabinet members at the session also donned masks. Lawmakers of the ruling and opposition parties also took seats placed slightly farther apart than usual from each other as a precaution against the virus.