TOKYO: 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 organisers 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.
Authorities want bars and restaurants to shut their doors completely or to stop selling alcohol and close by 8:00pm, 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.
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.