Japan to mull state of emergency amid virus crisis – premier

Profile: New president of Japan's ruling LDP Yoshihide Suga
Profile: New president of Japan's ruling LDP Yoshihide Suga

dpa/GNA – Japan will consider declaring a state of emergency over the Covid-19 pandemic for Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told a news conference on Monday.

His announcement comes after the governors of the four prefectures, including Tokyo, urged the central government on Saturday to impose the measure for their regions after suffering massive spikes in new coronavirus infections.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Chiba Governor Kensaku Morita called on Suga to make the declaration “immediately.”

The declaration is likely to come this week, local media reported.

Japan posted 3,158 new cases on Sunday, about half of which were from the four prefectures – Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama.

The four governors were also reportedly considering shortening the business hours of bars, karaoke bars and restaurants to help contain the spread of the virus.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike expressed concerns about an increase in the number of patients with severe symptoms after the figure rose to 101 on Sunday.

She urged 14 million Tokyo residents to continue refraining from non-urgent and non-essential outings.

Japan reported a record 4,336 new infections, including 1,337 in Tokyo, on Thursday as the country struggles to rein in a third wave of the pandemic. The figure exceeded the previous single-day record of 3,703 new cases on December 26, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

On Thursday, the ministry also revealed six cases of a new coronavirus variant initially discovered in Britain, which brought the total to 21 cases in Japan, including one case of another new strain identified in South Africa.

The confirmation of the new variant believed to be more contagious prompted the Japanese government to temporarily suspend the entry of foreign nationals. The measure started a week ago and will run until the end of January, the Foreign Ministry said.

In March, the global outbreak of the coronavirus forced the International Olympic Committee and Japan to make an unprecedented move to postpone the Tokyo Olympics by one year to July and August 2021.

Japan issued a coronavirus state emergency for seven prefectures in early April. Then, the measure expanded to the whole country a week later.

The nationwide state of emergency had lasted about a month. It ended in Tokyo and four other prefectures in late May – the last remaining regions subject to restrictions.

Japan has so far avoided a virus outbreak on the scale seen in Europe and the United States, with a total of more than 243,000 known infections and about 3,600 Covid-19-related deaths.

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