Japan likely to extend state of emergency

TOKYO (XINHUA) – Japan will likely today extend its monthlong state of emergency over COVID-19 that came into effect early last month for Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures before being expanded to cover 11 prefectures where the virus’ outbreaks had been rampant, government sources said yesterday.

The state of emergency, first declared by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in January for the Greater Tokyo Area as well as some other major urban areas that are densely populated including Osaka, was scheduled to end on February 7.

Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and nearby Saitama prefectures will likely see the emergency period extended, as while infections have dipped of late the virus’ transmission rate remains relatively high, particularly among the elderly, with healthcare facilities becoming increasingly strained, experts have said.

Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures, in western Japan, will likely be included in the extension, while Fukuoka and Okinawa prefectures may be added to the list amid rising COVID-19 cases there, informed sources said yesterday.

Tochigi Prefecture, officials said, meanwhile, may be removed from the emergency list, as COVID-19 cases have eased in the area that is also located in the Kanto region, not far from Tokyo.

People wearing masks walk on the street in Tokyo, Japan. PHOTO: XINHUA

Minister in Charge of Japan’s Coronavirus Response Yasutoshi Nishimura said the government will take advice from its panel of experts comprising senior health specialists and authorities from other fields such as lawyers to inform its decision on the likely extension.

“Looking at the situation from region to region, the number of infections is still high and the medical system continues to be strained,” said Shigeru Omi, the head of the government’s subcommittee on the pandemic said.

Since the state of emergency was declared, people have been more ardently requested to refrain from making unnecessary trips outdoors and to work from home.

Restaurants in particular have also been asked to shorten their operating hours and close their doors by 8pm.

Also under the state of emergency, large venues have been asked to cap their audiences.

With Japan having no way to actually enforce the rules, revisions to existing laws were drawn up to introduce fines for those not adhering to the government’s requests.