Japan declares emergency as COVID-19 cases surge

Tuesday, 12 Jan, 2021

Recorded daily infections exceeded 7,000 for the first time on Thursday, and it has seen a total of 267,000 cases and almost 3,900 deaths. It was only a week ago that the daily total surpassed 1,000 for the first time.

However, he insisted that right now the top priority was controlling infections.

"The global pandemic has been a tougher one than we expected, but I'm hopeful we can overcome this", Suga told a televised news conference.

The areas affected by the current state of emergency - Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama - are home to about 150,000 restaurants and bars.

The measures will include restaurants and bars having to stop serving alcohol by 7 p.m. and close by 8 p.m.

Japan's latest emergency measures certainly look nothing like the lockdowns reinstated in some parts of Europe recently. The third is the launch of a vaccination campaign in February.

"We may need to think about a state of emergency nationwide", Toshio Nakagawa, president of the Japan Medical Association, said on Wednesday.

Japan has yet to approve a coronavirus vaccine. Cases began increasing nationwide in November, and have surged in the past week, particularly in the regions near Tokyo.

For now, subsidies will be offered to businesses that close early, and the government could name-and-shame those that fail to do so.

Support for the delayed Tokyo Olympic Games, set down for this summer, has collapsed in Japan as the country battles a fresh outbreak of the coronavirus. Tokyo also reported a record 121 people who are seriously ill with COVID-19, the second day in a row with an all-time daily high. Suga said the government will sharply increase subsidies for converting hospital beds for COVID treatment.

- Japanese opposition lawmakers slammed the government's emergency declaration as too late to stem the surging coronavirus cases.

"The economy may resume positive growth in April-June but the pace of pick-up will be moderate", he said.

While economic aid from the government and the BOJ has so far helped keep unemployment and bankruptcies at enviably low rates during the pandemic, crisis spending pushed Japan's government debts to 266% of GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund. Schools, sports events, stores and movie theatres remain open, but with social distancing and mask-wearing measures.

"In Canada, where we might have 300 or 400 athletes, to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an worldwide event of this stature, character and level, I don't think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that", Pound said. "We are determined to bend the curve during the emergency declaration period". The Japan PM also said he is determined to hold the postponed Olympics and Paralympics this year.