Tokyo extends virus emergency for two weeks

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that his government is extending a state of emergency in the Tokyo region for another two weeks because its medical systems are still strained by COVID-19 patients.

At a government coronavirus taskforce meeting on Friday night, Suga said the emergency will be extended through March 21 for Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures, where the measure was to end today.

He said medical systems in the region were still burdened with COVID-19 patients and more hospital beds have to be freed.

Infections have slowed significantly, but not enough, and the pace of decline has stalled, he said. “There is a strong concern of a rebound.”

Suga declared a month long emergency on January 7 for Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba that was later extended through March 7. An emergency that applied to other urban prefectures was lifted last week, underscoring the government’s eagerness to allow businesses to return to normal as soon as possible.

The state of emergency, which is a non-binding request, centred around asking restaurants and other businesses to voluntarily close at 8pm. Japan has never had a mandatory lockdown but has managed to keep infections relatively low with social distancing and other voluntary measures.