Japan declares state of emergency for Tokyo area as COVID-19 cases surge

Tokyo: Japan declared a limited state of emergency in the capital, Tokyo, and three neighboring prefectures on Thursday to stem the spread of the coronavirus, resisting calls from some medics for wider curbs due to the economic damage they would cause.

The government said the one-month emergency would run from Friday to Feb. 7 in Tokyo and Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures, covering about 30% of the country’s population, said Reuters.

The curbs are narrower in scope than those imposed in April under an emergency that ran to late May. At that time, the curbs were nationwide and schools and non-essential businesses were mostly shuttered. This time, schools are not being closed.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government is seeking to limit damage to the world’s third-biggest economy while striving to defeat the virus once and for all as it looks ahead to staging the postponed summer Olympics.

Suga said damage to the economy was inevitable but he would aim to protect jobs and businesses with a 70 trillion yen ($670 billion) stimulus package, which is being rolled out.

Japan, though less seriously hit by the pandemic than many places, has been unable to rein in the virus to the extent some countries in the region have, with recorded daily infections at more than 7,000 for the first time on Thursday, media reported.

Tokyo in particular has been a constant worry with its tally of positive tests jumping to 2,447 on Thursday, from a record of 1,591 the previous day.

In all, Japan has seen 267,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths. Authorities aim to start a vaccination campaign by the end of February.