Tokyo prepares for state of emergency
Japan lockdown to last one month following fast outbreak
Published: Jan 07, 2021 06:48 PM

A large screen in Tokyo, Japan on Wednesday reminds of "social distancing." Japan's daily COVID-10 infections rose to 6,004 cases, topping 6,000 for the first time since the outbreak last year, Japanese media reported, based on official data a day ahead of an expected state of emergency declaration for the Tokyo area. Photo: VCG

Japan declared a one-month state of emergency in the capital Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures on Thursday to stem the spread of coronavirus infections, as new daily cases surged to a record of more than 7,000, media reported.

The government said the emergency would run from Friday to February 7 in Tokyo and Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures, covering about 30 percent of the country's population. 

Restrictions would center on measures to combat transmission in bars and restaurants, which the government says are main risk areas.

The curbs are less stringent than those imposed nationwide in April under an emergency that ran till late May, as the government seeks to limit damage to the world's third-biggest economy while striving to defeat the virus once and for all as it looks ahead to staging the postponed Summer Olympics.

Though still less seriously affected by the pandemic than many countries around the world, Japan has been unable to rein in the virus to the extent some countries in the region have.

Tokyo in particular has been a constant worry with its tally of positive tests jumping to 2,447 on Thursday, from a record of 1,591 the previous day.

Authorities aim to start a vaccination campaign by the end of February. The emergency goes into force on Friday.

Measures include asking restaurants and bars to close by 8 pm, and residents to refrain from non-urgent outings, more work from home and limiting crowds at sports and other big events to 5,000 people. 

The four prefectures are home to about 150,000 restaurants and bars.

Ahead of the declaration, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said on Thursday that upcoming exhibitions of the Olympics torch around the ­capital have been postponed "to reduce the flow of people and the further spread of ­COVID-19."

Suga has said shorter operating hours for bars and restaurants had helped bring cases down in regions such as Osaka and Hokkaido.

Medical experts have said they fear the government's plans might not be enough.

Government officials have been in talks with experts this week to assess steps to try to bring the surge under control with as little damage as possible to the economy.

With an eye on the looming Tokyo Olympics and the fragile state of the world's third-biggest economy, Suga has favored limited restrictions.

According to simulations by Kyoto University scientist Hiroshi Nishiura, infections in Tokyo could reach 3,500 a day by February and hit 7,000 by March without new measures. Emergency measures could take at least two months to bring infections to manageable levels, he said.
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