Japan extends virus emergency to Sept. 12, adds 7 more areas
Written by tokyoclub on August 17, 2021
The Japanese government decided Tuesday to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency covering Tokyo and other areas to Sept. 12 rather than end it on Aug. 31, while expanding the measure to seven more prefectures as a resurgence of infections shows no signs of subsiding.
Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka are already under a quasi-state of emergency, which carries fewer restrictions on business activity, but will have their status upgraded from Friday.
People wearing face masks for protection against the coronavirus walk in the rain in Tokyo’s Shinjuku area on Aug. 13, 2021. (Kyodo)
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the move after making it official at a task force meeting, warning that the country is seeing an “unprecedented” rise in COVID-19 and saying that providing life-saving medical care is the government’s “top priority.” He is slated to hold a press conference later Tuesday to explain the decision.
The extension means Tokyo will host the Paralympics, taking place from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5, entirely under the state of emergency. Organizers agreed the previous day to hold the games without almost any spectators, much like the just-ended Olympics.
The virus emergency will cover a total of 13 prefectures, with an additional 10 to be newly placed under the quasi-state of emergency, which will also be effective from Friday through Sept. 12.
Japanese economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is also in charge of the country’s coronavirus response, meets the press in Tokyo on Aug. 17, 2021, after attending a COVID-19 expert panel meeting in Tokyo. Nishimura explained to the panel meeting the government’s plan to declare a COVID-19 state of emergency in seven more prefectures in addition to Tokyo and five other areas. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of Japan’s coronavirus response, said hospitals are in an “extremely severe situation” especially in and around Tokyo, and that the new measures are needed to ensure the provision of medical care to those requiring it.
The move comes with the highly contagious Delta variant of the novel coronavirus running rampant. The number of COVID-19 patients with serious symptoms hit 1,646 as of Monday, marking a record high for the fifth straight day, the health ministry said. They include people in intensive care and those on respirators or life support.
Tokyo reported 4,377 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with eight deaths attributed to the respiratory disease.
The current state of emergency is the nation’s fourth. It has already been extended once before for Tokyo and was earlier expanded to include Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama and Osaka prefectures. The southern island prefecture of Okinawa has been under the measure since late May.
Under the state of emergency, restaurants and bars serving alcohol or offering karaoke are asked to shut during the period, while those not serving liquor are requested to close at 8 p.m. under the threat of possible fines.
Many are not complying, however, as doing so may mean shuttering their business permanently without enough financial support from the government. Large portions of the public also no longer heed calls to stay home.
Nishimura said commercial facilities with 1,000 or more square meters of floor space will be asked to limit the number of customers allowed in at the same time.
The quasi-state of emergency, under which restaurants and bars in areas designated by governors are similarly requested to cut opening hours and suspend serving alcohol, is now set to cover 16 prefectures.
Establishments taking anti-virus steps may be allowed to serve alcohol until 7 p.m. in accordance with governors’ decisions if infections in their regions are on a downward trend.
The 10 prefectures to be newly added are Miyagi, Yamanashi, Toyama, Gifu, Mie, Okayama, Hiroshima, Kagawa, Ehime and Kagoshima. The six already under the measure are Hokkaido, Fukushima, Ishikawa, Aichi, Shiga and Kumamoto.
A total of 14,854 new COVID-19 cases were reported Monday across the country, up around 2,700 from a week earlier, according to a tally based on local governments’ data.