TOKYO: The Japanese government on Friday decided to issue a fresh state of emergency over the new coronavirus for Tokyo and the western prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, where the resurgence of the virus continues.
The emergency, based on the special measures law for the fight against the coronavirus, will run for 17 days, from Sunday to May 11, including the Golden Week holiday period between later this month and early May.
The decision was made at a meeting of the government’s coronavirus response headquarters, chaired by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
It will be the third novel coronavirus state of emergency in Japan. The first and the second emergency declarations were made in April last year and January this year, respectively.
The focal point will be whether and by how much the relatively short emergency can curb the spread of highly infectious mutant strains of the coronavirus. The emergency might be extended, due to concerns over another wave of infections hitting the designated prefectures and other areas after its lifting, sources familiar with the situation said.
At a press conference held after the headquarters meeting, Suga apologized for causing inconvenience again for people due to the third state of emergency.
“By taking advantage of the Golden Week, we aim to contain the coronavirus through intensive countermeasures over a short term,” he said.
The governors of the four prefectures will make temporary closure requests to local department stores, theme parks and other large commercial facilities with areas of over 1,000 square meters, as well as eating and drinking establishments offering alcoholic drinks or karaoke services, aiming to curb flows of people during the Golden Week.
Restaurants and other facilities not serving alcoholic beverages will be requested to close by 8 p.m.
Companies and others will be asked to cut the number of workers in office by 70 pct.
Loan moratoriums and fresh loans will be offered to eating and drinking establishments, hotels, retailers, cultural facility operators and others that will be asked to suspend operations temporarily under the state of emergency.
The government will also provide 500 billion yen in extraordinary subsidies to local governments under the fresh state of emergency as resources for financial benefits to affected businesses.
Also at the press conference, Suga said “The government will make all-out effort to enable all municipalities to provide two coronavirus vaccine doses to all elderly people aiming to be inoculated by the end of July.”
The current coronavirus pre-emergency stage for Tokyo and the three prefectures in the Kansai western region is set to end on Saturday and will be replaced by the state of emergency on Sunday.
The government also decided to add Ehime Prefecture, western Japan, to the list of areas in the coronavirus pre-emergency stage. Specifically, the pre-emergency stage will cover the city of Matsuyama, the capital of Ehime, from Sunday to May 11.
A decision was also made to extend the ongoing pre-emergency designation for Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan, and Okinawa Prefecture, southernmost Japan, until May 11. The stage for Miyagi and Okinawa was originally slated to run until May 5.
Areas with the pre-emergency status, also including those in Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, all of which border Tokyo, and Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, will be asked to take thorough coronavirus countermeasures as strong as those under the state of emergency.