Anxiety mounts over another coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo area

Jan 08 , 2021. 12 hours ago – 21:27 KYODO NEWS

A large screen in the Kabukicho entertainment district of Tokyo’s Shinjuku area shows Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaking at a press conference on Jan. 7, 2021, to declare a state of emergency in Tokyo and adjacent Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures to fight a recent surge in coronavirus infections. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

TOKYO – People in Japan expressed anxiety Thursday about how their lives and businesses will be impacted by the imposition of another state of emergency in Tokyo and neighboring areas following record numbers of coronavirus cases.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s declaration of a monthlong state of emergency to Feb. 7 was met with skepticism and criticism, with some residents questioning whether it would have an immediate effect in curbing infections.

“We have started to understand what kind of disease (COVID-19) is, so I feel like we are not facing the same sense of urgency that we had in spring last year,” Kunio Iyonaga, a 48-year-old commuter from Yokohama said at Tokyo’s busy JR Shimbashi Station.

The emergency declaration came as the number of daily coronavirus cases in Tokyo hit yet another all-time high of 2,447, up more than 800 from the previous record set Wednesday, raising concern about the strain on the medical system.

A 38-year-old mother in the city of Saitama, who saw her 8-year-old son off to elementary school on Thursday morning, said, “I wonder if this will be enough. I want (the government) to impose stricter measures to fix the current situation.”

Toshio Nakagawa, president of the Japan Medical Association, welcomed Wednesday the government’s plan to declare a state of emergency but said it should look into the possibility of expanding the coverage of the declaration to the whole country.

Some health care workers said the medical system in the Tokyo area, accounting for about half of the country’s more than 7,500 cases reported Thursday, is close to breaking point as many of the beds secured for COVID-19 patients are already occupied.

Juntendo University Hospital in Tokyo has prepared 30 beds for such patients, including 10 beds in intensive care units, but 25 were in use as of Wednesday evening.

“If we get emergency patients at night with suspected (COVID-19) symptoms, we need to treat them in our coronavirus ward. The beds will be occupied quickly, which may force us to decline new patients,” said Toshio Naito, a professor in charge of coronavirus diagnosis at the university hospital.

“There were more things that (the government) could have done such as issuing a state of emergency earlier,” he said.

Elderly people, who face a higher risk of contracting a severe form of the COVID-19 illness, also said the declaration came too late.

“I only go out for shopping within walking distance when I need to,” said Chikako Sugano, 69, in Tokyo’s Sugamo area, adding it is difficult to understand why Suga’s administration let this severe situation occur and did not issue the declaration until now.

Residents in the area subject to the emergency — Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures — will be asked to stay at home. The government will also call for businesses including restaurants, entertainment facilities and department stores to close earlier.