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People's Daily Online

Japan gov't set to extend, expand virus state of emergency

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 10:54, May 07, 2021

TOKYO, May 6 (Xinhua) -- The Japanese government has decided to extend the duration of the COVID-19 state of emergency currently in effect for Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures until the end of the month as well as expand the coverage to include two prefecture, local media quoted senior officials as saying Thursday.

The officials said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will also declare a state of emergency in Aichi and Fukuoka prefectures and confirm the extension of the current emergency periods on Friday.

"The government will consult with our expert panel on Friday about extending the state of emergency. We would like to decide how long it will last and where it will be in effect," the Japanese leader said.

Quasi-states of emergency, currently in place for Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Ehime and Okinawa prefectures, will also be extended to the end of May and Hokkaido, Gifu and Mie prefectures will be added to the list, government officials said.

The quasi-states of emergency being declared are based on a revised law enabling the central government to declare a situation that falls short of a fully-fledged state of emergency but allows for special measures to be taken to counter the spread of the virus in areas on the brink of a fully-fledged emergency.

Under the current, more stringent restrictions in place for Tokyo and the western prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, restaurants have been urged not to serve alcohol and close their doors by 8:00 p.m., with the restrictions in place since April 25 initially set to be eased next Tuesday.

Department stores, karaoke parlors and movie theaters have also been requested to temporarily shutter operations as the country grapples to deal with a "fourth wave" of COVID-19 infections, including highly transmissible virus variants, as confirmed by leading infectious diseases experts here.

Other restrictions have included barring entry to spectators at would-be large-scale events, such as soccer, baseball matches and music concerts, while businesses have been urged to allow their employees to work remotely and public transportation services reduced.

But despite the nation's third state of emergency, some prefectural governors, among criticism over the central government's sluggish vaccination rollout, believe the anti-virus measures to date have been toothless.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, for example, has voiced concern over the rising cases of highly contagious virus variants spreading around the capital.

She believed the virus situation in Tokyo remains severe to the point it is too early to lift the state of emergency.

"We believe the state of emergency needs to be extended, based on analyses from a variety of angles," Koike said.

On Wednesday, she said that daily consultations regarding high fevers possibly related to the virus soared to 2,500 the previous day.

This was the same level as when the nation was in the grip of its "third wave" of infections during the year-end and New Year period here.

As such, Koike reiterated her ardent request for people to maintain social distancing measures and generally avoid contact with others, while encouraging Tokyoites to work from home.

On Thursday, Tokyo confirmed 591 new COVID-19 cases, while hard-hit Osaka, the new epicenter of the virus in Japan, reported 747 new infections, according to the latest statistics released by local officials and the health ministry Thursday evening.

Hyogo and Kyoto prefectures, meanwhile, also under a state of emergency, reported 281 and 130 new cases, respectively.

The average new daily infection count is considerably lower than last week, but this is likely due to hospitals being closed and many health facilities processing fewer COVID-19 tests due to the Golden Week string of national holidays beginning at the end of April and ending Wednesday, experts said.

As for patients designated as being in a critical condition, following Wednesday's record 1,114 severe COVID-19 cases, the health ministry said Thursday's number of patients with serious symptoms nationwide dropped marginally to 1,098.

Nationwide, 4,375 new COVID-19 cases were reported, with the death toll rising to a total of 10,625 people, according to local authorities and the health ministry as of Thursday evening.

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