Tokyo: Japan’s Tokyo and the western prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo will likely be placed under a state of emergency from Sunday to May 11, which would cover the Golden Week string of national holidays, amid rising COVID-19 cases, local media reported Thursday.
The decision will be made by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at a coronavirus task force meeting on Friday and comes as the prefectures have requested heightened measures to combat the spread of the virus that go beyond quasi-emergency measures previously implemented.
With regards to the Golden Week holidays, a time when many Japanese are usually free to travel, Suga said on Thursday that measure required would be taken to “stem the spread of the virus by all means.”
Osaka Prefecture, which has overtaken Tokyo as the epicenter of the outbreak recently, reported 1,167 new infections on Thursday, following a record 1,242 cases confirmed the previous day and topping the 1,000 threshold for third straight day.
Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura has said the state of emergency should begin this weekend and that there was no time to waste.
The prefecture’s health care system has been severely strained recently, with rising numbers of patients with serious COVID-19 symptoms requiring hospitalization.
Yoshimura has told the central government that he plans to request bars and restaurants in certain areas, along with department stores and amusement parks, to suspend operations temporarily to curb the further spread of the virus.
He also wants people’s movements to be further restricted under the upcoming state of emergency. Elementary and junior high school classes in Osaka may also be asked to be temporarily held online under the new emergency measures, Osaka officials have suggested.
In addition, he plans to call on bars and restaurants to close on weekends and for them to suspend the selling of alcohol.
Similarly, the Tokyo metropolitan government under the new state of emergency will request departments stores and malls to temporarily shutter their businesses and bars and restaurants serving alcohol to close, local media reported.
On Thursday, Tokyo reported an additional 861 cases, the highest daily count since the second state of emergency was lifted.
“We cannot suppress the spread of the virus in the way we did before. Stronger measures are needed,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Thursday.
The nation is also now contending with rapid spread of variants of the virus, thought to be highly transmissible, with an expert health ministry panel stating that estimates put virus variants at 80 percent of the total in both Osaka and Hyogo prefectures, with such cases also rapidly on the rise in the capital.
The nationwide daily tally reached 5,499, according to the latest figure Thursday evening, topping the 5,000-mark for the second time in three months, with the death toll rising to a total of 9,828 people.