Suga weighing coronavirus emergency for Tokyo area

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said yesterday he was considering declaring a state of emergency in the greater Tokyo area over a “very severe” third wave of coronavirus infections.

Speaking at a regular new year press conference, Suga also said he hoped vaccinations would begin in Japan in late February, adding that he would be among the first to receive one.

He urged people to avoid non-essential outings, and said the government would introduce legislation to penalise businesses that flout requests to shorten hours or close, as well as provide incentives to those who abide by such calls.

Suga also insisted the government was still committed to holding the virus-postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics this summer, saying the Games would be “proof that mankind overcame the virus”.

Suga, who took office in September, has faced increasing pressure over his government’s response to record numbers of new infections.

On Saturday, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, joined by governors from three neighbouring regions, called on the central government to impose a state of emergency in their areas.

But the government has been reticent to take measures that could send the economy back into reverse, soon after it exited a recession.

However, Suga said yesterday he realised “a stronger message was necessary”.

Police officers look at pedestrians in Tokyo, Japan. PHOTO: AP