Japan declares health emergency in Tokyo amid record coronavirus surge

Tokyo, Jan 7 (efe-epa).- The government of Japan on Thursday declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three adjoining prefectures, allowing authorities to impose fresh restrictions to check the Covid-19 pandemic amid a record surge in infections.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday announced the activation of the legislative recourse over the “serious feeling of risk” due to the rapid countrywide expansion of the virus, during a meeting with the government team in-charge of pandemic response.

The state of emergency would be accompanied by fresh restrictions on the opening hours of non-essential commercial establishments, as well as an appeal for citizens to remain at home – although it stop short of a mandatory total lockdown – apart from other measures.

The measure covers Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures and will be effective between Friday and Feb. 8, Suga said after presenting the proposal in the Japanese parliament and meeting the government panel of health experts.

Suga said the government’s priority was saving the citizens’ lives, having announced earlier that the fresh state of emergency would be focused on a series of key actions and would be more limited than the first such measure imposed in spring during the first wave of infections.

Major measures under the emergency include promotion of work from home or teleworking, aiming to extend it to 70 percent of the workforce, reducing the size of public events, reducing opening hours of bars and restaurants and urging citizens to not leave their houses after 8 pm, Suga informed.

The government does not possess legislative tools to impose a full lockdown or force commercial establishments to comply with its recommendations, therefore it is set to use a system of economic incentives so that businesses stop serving alcohol at 7 pm and close down by 8.

The government of Japan has resorted to using the state of emergency for a second time in order to try and control the rapid increase in infections across the country, with Tokyo leading the surge.

The capital on Thursday reported 2,447 fresh infections, a fresh record which amounts to an increase of over 1,000 compared to Wednesday’s count, which had also marked the highest daily number of cases until now.

Japan has registered over 6,000 cases within the last 24 hours.

Tokyo accounts for around one-fourth of the total Covid-19 infections in the country, currently standing at 263,638, including 3,831 deaths according to latest data. EFE-EPA


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