Japan extends coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo, nine other areas till 7 March

Japan prime minister Yoshihide Suga has faced criticism for delaying anti-virus actions until late December, when he finally suspended government-subsidised tourism and dining promotion campaigns

The Associated Press February 02, 2021 21:24:36 IST
Japan extends coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo, nine other areas till 7 March

File image of Yoshihide Suga. AP

Tokyo: Japan's prime minister Yoshihide Suga announced Tuesday that he is extending a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and nine other areas through 7 March, amid growing uncertainty over the national rollout of vaccines and the hosting of the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

Suga said he will speed up vaccination plans and start inoculating a first group of medical workers in mid-February, instead of the earlier target of late February.

Under the state of emergency, the government has issued non-binding requests for people to avoid crowds and eating out in groups, and for restaurants and bars to close by 8 pm.

New cases have declined in Tokyo and nationwide since early January, but experts say hospitals remain flooded with serious cases and that preventive measures should remain in place.

Japan has had about 400,000 coronavirus cases, including 5,800 deaths.

“I seek your cooperation to endure just a bit longer," Suga said. "We must make sure the infections are on a continuous decline.” The emergency will be lifted before 7 March in areas with significant improvements in infections and their medical systems, he said.

The emergency will end Sunday as earlier planned in one prefecture, Tochigi north of Tokyo, where the situation has improved. It will remain in place in Tokyo and its neighbors Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa, as well as in Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka in the west and Aichi and Gifu in central Japan.

About 80 percent of the cases in Japan are in the 10 prefectures under the emergency and the area needs to be under a close watch, said health minister Norihisa Tamura said earlier Tuesday.

In addition to the request for bars and restaurants to close early, employers were asked to arrange for more of their staff to work from home. Additionally, the government will expand testing, officials said.

Unlike Japan’s first emergency in April and May last year, schools, gyms, theaters and shops remain open, although some stores are voluntarily closing early.

He said the measures focus on narrow targets such as dining and service hours, in addition to basics such as mask wearing, handwashing and avoiding crowds.

Suga took office in September and pledged to get the economy back on track while keeping coronavirus infections under control. He says he is determined to hold the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

He has promised to secure enough vaccines to cover Japan’s entire population of 127 million by June, but none has been approved yet.

Administrative reform minister Taro Kono, who is in charge of COVID-19 vaccines, raised concern Tuesday about the delayed distribution of European-made vaccines, saying Japan’s preparations have been affected by a lack of EU clarity.

“Our vaccine supply schedule has not been finalised even now,” Kono said.

Japanese officials have said they hope to launch inoculations with Pfizer vaccines, some of which are produced in the EU, starting with medical workers, then elderly people and others with underlying health conditions.

The general public is not expected to receive vaccines until around June, and obtaining “herd immunity” ahead of the Olympics in July is considered unlikely, especially in a country known for vaccine skepticism.

Suga has faced criticism for delaying anti-virus actions until late December, when he finally suspended government-subsidised tourism and dining promotion campaigns. He was seen as too slow to act until local leaders pleaded for government leadership. The number of new daily infections and deaths roughly doubled over one month between November and December.

Support ratings for Suga’s government have nosedived in recent polls which showed public dissatisfaction with his handling of the virus.

Updated Date:

Subscribe to Moneycontrol Pro at ₹499 for the first year. Use code PRO499. Limited period offer. *T&C apply

also read

India reports 10,584 new COVID-19 cases, 78 fatalities in a day; tally crosses 1.1 cr
Health

India reports 10,584 new COVID-19 cases, 78 fatalities in a day; tally crosses 1.1 cr

The active coronavirus cases in the country have reduced to 1,47,306 which comprises 1.34 percent of the total caseload, said the health ministry

AstraZeneca vaccine has higher efficacy against COVID-19 with a three-month gap between doses, says Oxford study
Health

AstraZeneca vaccine has higher efficacy against COVID-19 with a three-month gap between doses, says Oxford study

The study, published in The Lancet, suggests that the interval between doses can be safely extended to three months than a six-week gap as the first dose can offer up to 76 percent protection during that period

India registers 13,993 new COVID-19 cases, highest in 22 days; active caseload stays below 1.5 lakh
Health

India registers 13,993 new COVID-19 cases, highest in 22 days; active caseload stays below 1.5 lakh

The number of people who have recuperated from the coronavirus surged to 1,06,78,048 taking the national recovery rate to 97.27 percent, said the health ministry