News World Asia Tokyo heads for virus state of emergency

Tokyo heads for virus state of emergency

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An advisory panel has approved the Japanese government’s plan for a one-month state of emergency, beginning Friday, for Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures in a bid to contain a surge in new coronavirus cases, now running at record levels.

The proposal for an emergency declaration running from January 8 to February 7 was approved at a morning meeting, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Thursday.

Its restrictions centre on measures to combat transmission at bars and restaurants, cited by the government as key risk areas.

Though still less seriously affected by the pandemic than many countries around the world, Japan saw new daily infections top 6000 for the first time on Wednesday, according to public broadcaster NHK, led by 1591 positive tests in the capital, Tokyo.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will hold a news conference at 6pm to formally announce the decision and curbs to be imposed in Tokyo and the neighbouring Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures.

But medical experts have said they fear the government’s plans might be inadequate, with new cases hitting highs around the country.

Government officials have been in talks with experts this week to assess steps to try to bring the surge under control with as little damage as possible to the economy.

With an eye on the looming Tokyo Olympics and the fragile state of the world’s third-biggest economy, Suga has favoured limited restrictions.

Economy Minister Nishimura said measures to be included in the state of emergency include asking restaurants and bars to close by 8pm, requesting that residents refrain from non-urgent outings, and limiting attendance at sporting and other big events to 5000 people.

The four prefectures are home to about 150,000 restaurants and bars.

Prime Minister Suga has said shorter operating hours for such businesses had helped bring cases down in regions such as Osaka and Hokkaido.