Tokyo’s COVID-19 state of emergency to be extended 2 weeks

Mar 05 , 2021. 3 hours ago – 07:16 KYODO NEWS

TOKYO – The Japanese government is expected to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency covering the Tokyo metropolitan area by about two weeks on Friday, having decided the situation has not improved enough to end it on the weekend as planned.

The extension would be the second since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared the emergency on Jan. 7, coming as health experts have warned that a premature exit could lead to a resurgence in infections with less than five months until the Tokyo Olympics.

Suga, who has said the measure is “necessary to protect lives and livelihoods,” is set to finalize the decision at a meeting of the government’s COVID-19 response task force in the evening before holding a press conference to explain the reasoning behind it.

Under the state of emergency, residents of Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures are being asked to refrain from unnecessarily leaving home while restaurants and bars must close by 8 p.m. Firms are encouraged to adopt remote working and attendance at large events such as concerts and sports games is capped at 5,000.

While the regulations appear to have been successful in bringing down the number of infections, the pace of decline had bottomed out in recent weeks. The capital reported 279 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, above the latest seven-day average of 269.1.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who had been apprehensive toward lifting the emergency on Sunday as scheduled, has called the two-week extension a “crucial period” to prevent a resurgence in infections.

Health experts have also voiced concerns over the continuing strain on hospitals. As of Wednesday, the occupancy rate of beds for COVID-19 patients was 47 percent in Chiba, 42 percent in Saitama, 31 percent in Tokyo and 29 percent in Kanagawa, according to the Cabinet Office.

Suga declared a one-month state of emergency for the Tokyo metropolitan area on Jan. 7 before expanding it to a total of 11 prefectures including Osaka and Aichi.

The end date was pushed back one month but then brought forward again for the remaining prefectures amid a decline in infections and as hospitals became less strained.