Covid: Japan to issue 'short, powerful' emergency for Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo

Published on Apr 23, 2021 09:08 AM IST

Under a new state of emergency for April 25 to May 11, the government will require restaurants, bars, and karaoke parlours serving alcohol to close, and big sporting events to be held without spectators.

Passersby wearing protective masks walk on the street amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo. ( REUTERS)
Passersby wearing protective masks walk on the street amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo. ( REUTERS)
Reuters | , Tokyo

Japan will declare "short and powerful" states of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and two other prefectures, a cabinet minister said on Friday, as the country struggles to contain a resurgent pandemic just three months ahead of the Olympics.

Under a new state of emergency for April 25 to May 11, the government will require restaurants, bars, and karaoke parlours serving alcohol to close, and big sporting events to be held without spectators, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said.

Breaching the restrictions will in some cases carry penalties under a recently revised law, he said.

"We absolutely have to limit the movement of people, and we have to do it decisively," said Nishimura, speaking at the start of a meeting with a panel of experts to discuss the proposed measures.

"We need powerful, short and focused measures," he said, asking people to remember the lockdowns of last spring and stay at home.

Nishimura later told reporters the panel had approved the government's plan. The new restrictions are expected to be formally approved later on Friday and announced by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at an 8 p.m. (1100 GMT) news conference.

Department stores and other retailers larger than 1,000 square metres will need to close while companies will be asked to make greater allowances for people to work-from-home.

The state of emergency - a third round for Japan that would also include Kyoto and Hyogo - would last through the "Golden Week" holidays and cover nearly a quarter of the population, in a further hit to the tourism and services industries.

Japan has so far avoided an explosive spread of the pandemic that has crippled many countries. There have been a total of about 550,000 cases and 9,761 deaths, which is significantly lower than the numbers seen in other large economies.

But the latest rise in infections has stoked alarm with an explosive surge in the mutant variant and a critical shortage of hospital beds in some regions, while Japan's vaccination drive remains sluggish.

Organisers of the Tokyo Motor Show on Thursday cancelled the marquee event for this year, in a move likely to raise more questions about the government's insistence that the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead this summer. Tokyo 2020 organisers said on the same day that a policeman who worked with the torch relay had tested positive for the virus, in a first for the event.

Tokyo reported 861 new cases on Thursday, the most since Jan. 29, which was during the third wave of the pandemic and a previous state of emergency.

Several other prefectures remain in a "quasi-emergency" state of targeted infection controls, and Nishimura said the duration would also be extended to May 11 for some.

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