Gov’t eyes COVID quasi-emergency for Tokyo, vicinity: source
TOKYO. KAZINFORM - The Japanese government is considering declaring a quasi-state of emergency for Tokyo and three nearby prefectures amid a rapid increase in the number of novel coronavirus cases in the region, a government source said Monday, Kyodo reports.
The capital reported more than 4,000 new cases on Sunday with its hospital bed occupancy rate nearing 20 percent, a benchmark for the metropolitan government to ask the central government to place it under the quasi-state of emergency.
The three other prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa have also seen a rise in infections.
«(The number of new cases) is surging at an unprecedented speed, not just in the metropolitan areas, but elsewhere too,» said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno in a regular news conference, adding the government will swiftly consider declaring the quasi-emergency if requested.
Matsuno said experts have noted the need to consider making a declaration based on wider economic regions rather than prefectures and he suggested taking such a stance for Tokyo and Osaka and their vicinities.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a ruling party meeting Monday the government will «need to implement restrictions on people's movement» if the existing antivirus measures cannot curb the virus spread.
Under the quasi-emergency, dining establishments in areas subject to the restrictions are asked to shorten their business hours and people are requested to refrain from traveling across prefectural borders.
Such a measure was declared for Okinawa, Yamaguchi and Hiroshima prefectures on Jan. 9 through the end of the month.
To counter the resurgence of COVID-19, the government is now planning to reopen a mass vaccination center in Tokyo on Jan. 31 using a government facility in Chiyoda Ward, the venue of a vaccination program last year, according to a government source.
Kishida announced last week centers operated by the Self-Defense Forces in Tokyo and Osaka would be reopened in order to speed up giving booster shots to people.
The Defense Ministry is set to decide on the schedule for administering third shots to those aged 18 or older as early as Tuesday.