TOKYO — Like a giant whodunit, the centerpiece of Japan’s coronavirus strategy has been identifying clusters of infection, tracking them to their sources — and then tracing and isolating people who may have been exposed.But the virus detectives running Japan’s infection control team eventually found cases they couldn’t crack. In mid-March, clusters emerged in Tokyo’s “hostess bars” and nightclubs, which draw the classic clientele of executives and salarymen.The trouble was: The people at the bars and clubs just weren’t talking to health investigators.“These night spots have some high-status customers, wealthy people,” Takeaki Imamura, a Tohoku University professor and infection control team member, told public broadcaster NHK in a documentary.“The staff felt a duty to protect their customers, so they don’t say anything,” he added. “They won’t say who was there, who they were with and so on. It’s difficult to work out what actually happened.”Wider lessons This is Tokyo’s sleazy underside: bars where men pay inflated prices for drinks with female “companions” and other venues offering sex services.Bars, clubs and gambling halls have become weak links in Japan’s efforts to control covid-19, but they are only one part of a much broader story — of a government reluctant to impose a

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