Shinzo Abe
Shinzo Abe

Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe has decided to declare a nationwide state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic to combat the further spread of the virus as cases of infections continue to rise, public broadcaster NHK said Thursday.

The planned move comes as the number and pace of cases continue to increase across Japan with confirmed new COVID-19 infections rising by 188 nationwide, including 149 cases in Tokyo, according to health ministry and local authorities as of Thursday afternoon.

The national total of COVID-19 cases now stands at 8,910 with the death toll from the pneumonia-causing virus at a total of 194, including those from a cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama near Tokyo, the latest figures showed.

On April 7, Japan declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus crisis for just seven of the nation’s 47 prefectures.

The prefectures covered by the declaration at the time were Tokyo, Osaka, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Hyogo and Fukuoka prefectures.

The declaration better empowered those prefectures’ governors to take enhanced measures to curb the spread of the virus.

But other prefectures’ governors have vehemently been calling to be added to the list, as the virus continued to spread elsewhere in the country.

Some prefectures, meanwhile, took matters into their own hands and issued their own state of emergency independent of the central government.

As with those under the official emergency declaration, they have also asked their residents to take various precautionary measures, such as working from home, avoiding crowded areas and reducing social contact by up to 80 percent, in a bid to prevent the virus’ spread.

A nationwide state of emergency being issued would ensure that prefectural governors, across-the board, would be better enabled to authorize measures to curb the spread of the virus, which according to figures released Thursday afternoon are showing no signs of slowing.

In Tokyo, the epicenter of Japan’s outbreak, a total of 2,595 infections have been confirmed, accounting for well over one-third of all COVID-19 cases across the nation, followed by Osaka Prefecture where cases stand at 968 infections.

Kanagawa Prefecture, meanwhile, has recorded 622 infections, Chiba Prefecture 537 cases, Saitama Prefecture 513 infections, Hyogo Prefecture 443 cases and Fukuoka Prefecture has recorded 436 cases of COVID-19, according to the latest figures Thursday afternoon.

The health ministry here also said there are currently a total of 173 patients considered severely ill and are on ventilators to receive respiratory assistance or have been admitted to intensive care units for medical treatment.

The ministry also said that in total, 1,546 people have been discharged from hospitals after their symptoms improved, according to the latest figures.

The state of emergency is set to end on May 6, at the end of this year’s Golden Week holidays. Enditem

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