No need for new COVID-19 emergency, says Japan PM as cases hit record

TOKYO (CNA) – Japan does not need another state of emergency to tackle the novel coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Friday, even though it is seeing record high numbers of new daily cases as the weather grows cold.

“Experts don’t yet feel we’re at a situation where we need to institute another state of emergency,” Suga told reporters. Japan first imposed a state of emergency in April and lifted it late the following month.

The national daily infection tally rose to a record 1,685 on Friday, state-run NHK national television said, breaking a record set the previous day.

Tokyo recorded 374 infections on Friday, down slightly from the day before, but other areas posted record daily highs.

Japan has had 116,220 cases of the coronavirus in all and nearly 2,000 deaths, according to NHK figures. Suga also said there was no need to change a contentious national tourism promotion initiative that critics have said could be contributing to the spread of the virus.

The government’s “Go to Travel” scheme is aimed at supporting the devastated travel industry by encouraging domestic tourism with subsidies.

Asked later when the initiative might end, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said that would depend on various factors.

“We will need to consider the situation with coronavirus infections, the recovery of demand in the tourism industry and factors such as budget,” he told a news conference.

Experts said that if infections in an area rose past a certain point, that area should be removed from the travel initiative, he said.

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus gets on a bus near Tokyo Station. PHOTO: AP