With coronavirus-induced COVID-19 cases rising sharply in Japan and weighing down its medical system, Japan is considering declaring a state of emergency for Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures as early as this week, reported Fuji TV on Monday.
On December 31, Japan saw a record 4,520 new cases in a fresh wave of infections, prompting Tokyo to announce an emergency declaration in the capital and neighbouring prefectures.
So far Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has resisted those calls, keeping in view the potential damage to the economy. He is set to hold a news conference to mark the start of 2021 at 11 a.m. (0200 GMT).
As an interim measure, restaurants and karaoke parlours in the Tokyo area are being asked to close at 8 p.m., while businesses that serve alcohol should close by 7 p.m.
If a state of emergency is declared, it would mark the second such occurrence over the COVID-19 pandemic. The first lasted for more than a month last spring, when schools and non-essential businesses were asked to close.
Japan has relied on voluntary closures and travel restrictions rather than the sort of rigid lockdown measures seen elsewhere in the world.
Although the number of COVID-19 cases are small in Japan compared to parts of Europe and the Americas, Japan faces the challenge of hosting the Tokyo Olympics this summer after the pandemic caused the Games’ first-ever delay in 2020.