Breaking: Japan prime minister declares coronavirus emergency 3 months before Olympics
Japan announced a new virus state of emergency in Tokyo and three other regions on Friday, as the country battles surging infections just three months before the Olympic opening ceremony.
The nation’s virus outbreak remains much smaller than in many countries, but a recent uptick in cases has officials and medical professionals worried, even as the government and Olympic organizers insist this summer’s Games will go ahead.
“Today we decided to declare a state of emergency in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo prefectures,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced, citing the rise in infections involving new virus variants. The measure will run from April 25 to May 11.
“We have accumulated knowledge … we have weapons called vaccines. I’m certain there will be an end to this difficult battle,” Suga said.
Japan’s Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura has earlier warned of a “strong sense of crisis”, saying current restrictions were not sufficient.
The measures will be tougher than Japan’s last state of emergency, imposed in parts of the country from January, but still far short of the harsh lockdowns seen in some parts of the world.
Authorities want bars and restaurants to shut their doors completely and close by 8:00 pm, and to shutter major commercial facilities like malls.
The measure will coincide with the Golden Week holiday that is Japan’s busiest travel period of the year, and could involve cutting some public transport services to discourage movement.
Spectators will also be barred from sports events, which can continue behind closed doors, and remote working will be encouraged.
Although the measures start from Sunday, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike urged residents to start taking precautions immediately.
She even urged businesses to turn their lights off in the evenings to encourage people to stay away.
Japan has had some success containing COVID-19, with fewer than 10,000 deaths despite never imposing strict lockdown measures.
But cases surged over winter and have rebounded since the previous state of emergency was lifted in March.
Tokyo on Friday logged 759 cases, while Osaka recorded 1,162 new infections, slightly down on record numbers earlier in the week.