Japan to extend COVID-19 emergency on Sept. 9 in Tokyo, other areas
Written by tokyoclub on September 8, 2021
The Japanese government is looking to decide Thursday on extending the COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo and other metropolitan areas where hospitals remain under strain despite gradually falling infections, sources with knowledge of the plan said Wednesday.
The state of emergency currently covering 21 of Japan’s 47 prefectures is due to expire on Sunday and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is set to make a final assessment of where restrictions on business activity should remain in place before announcing the decision at a task force meeting.
The extension could be from around two weeks to one month, sources have said. With Suga having announced that he will not seek re-election as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party beyond the Sept. 30 end of his presidential term, a monthlong extension would mean his successor, the new prime minister, would make the call on when to end the measure.
A panel of experts advising the government on its COVID-19 response said Wednesday the state of emergency should only be lifted if hospital bed occupancy rates fall below 50 percent and patients with severe to moderate symptoms are on a downward trend.
Daily new infections should also be in steady decline for about two weeks and the number of patients convalescing at home or waiting to be admitted to hospital should have fallen to around 60 people per 100,000 in metropolitan areas, the panel said.
Tokyo has been under its fourth state of emergency since July 12, and the Olympics and Paralympics were hosted with almost no spectators at venues as the number of infections surged to record highs amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Under the measure, people are being urged to avoid crowded areas and restaurants told to stop serving alcohol and close by 8 p.m., though the requests are largely voluntary and compliance has slipped as many grow tired of living under the restrictions.
According to the sources, Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures — Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa — are likely to remain under the state of emergency. Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura has also said an extension is “unavoidable.”
Some other areas where the COVID-19 situation has improved are expected to be downgraded to a quasi-state of emergency, which allows governors to target specific cities rather than place restrictions on their entire prefectures.
Suga is stepping down after just a year in office amid criticism over his handling of the pandemic, with his public support in tatters and LDP lawmakers questioning his leadership heading into a general election this fall.