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Most Japan firms cancel year-end parties due to COVID-19

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Nearly 90% of Japanese companies plan to skip year-end and New Year parties to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a private survey showed on Thursday, underscoring the pain the coronavirus pandemic is inflicting on an already weak economy.

Boozy year-end and New Year dinners have long been a tradition in Japanese corporate culture, making December and January a peak season for restaurants that saw bookings fill up quickly.

Not this year. With record COVID-19 tallies reported across Japan, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the government was looking to tighten guidelines on eating out, which would hit bars and restaurants already hurt by slumping sales from social distancing policies.

In a survey of about 10,000 companies, about 87.8% said they do not plan to hold year-end or New Year parties, according to private think tank Tokyo Shoko Research.

In Tokyo, 90.2% of the companies plan to forego holding such parties, the survey showed on Thursday.

“While the government is continuing with campaigns to revitalise consumption, companies seem to be focusing on preventing their employees from being infected,” Tokyo Shoko Research said in a report.

Some analysts blame the resurgence in infections on the government’s campaign for discounted domestic travel and dining out, which was aimed at supporting the ailing tourism and restaurant industries.

The Japanese capital of Tokyo posted the highest coronavirus alert level on Thursday with its daily tally of new cases set for a record high of more than 500, and its governor warned of much worse unless action is taken.

The nationwide tally also hit a new high of 2,201 on Wednesday, according to state broadcaster NHK.

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