Japan eyes extending COVID-19 emergency in Tokyo, other areas

Sep 07 , 2021. 11 hours ago – 22:37 KYODO NEWS

TOKYO – The Japanese government is eyeing an extension of the COVID-19 state of emergency for Tokyo, neighboring and some other prefectures past its Sept. 12 end date, having deemed the strains on the health system have not eased enough to lift restrictions on business activity, sources said Monday.

The emergency declaration could be extended by around two to three weeks, the sources said. But with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga having announced his resignation, it could be stretched by about one month to allow his successor as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, to be chosen Sept. 29, to decide when the measure ends.

A total of 21 of Japan’s 47 prefectures are currently under the state of emergency, with people being asked to avoid crowded areas and restaurants told to stop serving alcohol and close by 8 p.m.

Only some are expected to see the measure end on Sept. 12 as scheduled, and even then will likely shift to a quasi-state of emergency with some restrictions remaining in place, the sources said.

Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said Monday extending the state of emergency in his prefecture is “unavoidable.”

Suga, who is stepping down as LDP leader after his term ends Sept. 30 amid criticism over his handling of the pandemic, is set to consult with members of his Cabinet including health minister Norihisa Tamura and Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of COVID-19 response, over the coming days before making a formal decision on the extension as early as Thursday.

Tokyo, one of the hardest hit areas, confirmed 968 daily coronavirus cases on Monday, marking the first time since July 19 the count has fallen below 1,000, but concerns persist over the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

The daily figure was down significantly from the 1,853 cases confirmed Sunday, although infection numbers tend to be lower on Mondays as fewer tests are conducted on weekends.

One of the sources said hospitals in Tokyo, Osaka and Aichi, home to Japan’s three biggest metropolitan areas, continue to be strained by the large number of COVID-19 patients and that any decision on extending the state of emergency should also apply to surrounding areas.

The seven-day rolling average in Tokyo stood at 2,414 per day, down 34.9 percent from the previous week. The number of people suffering from severe symptoms increased by three from the previous day to 267.

The capital, which hosted the Olympics from late July and just finished staging the Paralympics, saw over 125,600 new coronavirus cases in August, almost triple the previous monthly record infections logged in July.