Japan declares coronavirus emergency in Tokyo metro area
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TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures Thursday to combat a record-breaking wave of coronavirus infections sweeping the greater metro area.
The state of emergency starts Friday and lasts until Feb. 7, Suga said during a news conference Thursday.
The continued rapid spread of coronavirus infections “could have a profound effect on people’s lives and the national economy," Suga said, according to public broadcaster NHK.
Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama represent about half the total number of new coronavirus cases in Japan each day, Suga said.
Tokyo and Kanagawa are the sites of a handful of U.S. military bases, including the headquarters of U.S. Forces Japan, U.S. Army Japan, U.S. Naval Forces Japan and the homeport of the 7th Fleet.
Under the declaration, the city and prefectural governors may request, but not order, that restaurants and bars finish alcohol sales by 7 p.m. and close by 8 p.m., Suga said. Governors may publicize the names of restaurants and bars that do not cooperate with the request. People will be asked to stay home after 8 p.m.
Experts said about 60% of coronavirus patients may have picked up the virus while dining or drinking, a risk must be reduced, Suga said.
The declaration sets basic timelines, areas and guidelines and permits the governors of those regions to decide on the details and where they will make those requests.
It asks that events finish by 8 p.m. and allow audiences to fill only 50% of the venue capacity to a maximum of 5,000 people.
Tokyo Disney Resort on Wednesday announced it will close Disneyland and DisneySea daily at 8 p.m. between Friday and Jan. 31.
The declaration also urges private companies to turn to telework and reduce by 70% the number of workers coming into their workplaces.
However, schools will not be asked to close as they did in the previous state of emergency in April.
Japan has suffered a significant increase in coronavirus cases nationwide since November.
Tokyo alone confirmed 2,447 newly infected people on Thursday, the highest one-day total during the pandemic. Since Dec. 31 the number of positive tests has exceeded 1,000 on three days, each of them setting new highs, according to metro government data.
Japan on Wednesday reported 4,357 new coronavirus patients nationwide, according to the World Health Organization.
Suga called on younger people to act carefully. More than half of those infected in Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures are in their 30s or younger and they tend not to show severe symptoms, he said. Their becoming infected contributes to the virus spreading.
“Please think about it,” Suga said, “and act to protect important lives of others including your parents, grandparents, family and friends.”
He said Monday that an emergency declaration sends a strong message as the number of new coronavirus patients continues to climb. The government is also concerned about the strain placed on hospitals in the metro area.
The declaration is the second state of emergency for those areas of Japan since the pandemic began. Suga’s predecessor Shinzo Abe declared a monthlong emergency for the same four prefectures and two others in April.