The Japanese capital and three nearby prefectures have asked the national government to declare a state of emergency to curtail the surging spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
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“In the name of valuing life, we made this plea together,” said Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike after meeting for three hours on Saturday with the minister in charge of coronavirus measures, along with the governors of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa.
Japan has seen a recent rise in reported cases of COVID-19, especially in urban areas. Tokyo saw a daily record of 1,337 cases on New Year’s Eve.
Worries are growing about hosting the Olympics, set for July, with 11,000 Olympic athletes set to enter Japan, as well as tens of thousands of officials and media.
“Corona knows no calendar,” said Koike, referring to her worries about infections being fueled by New Year’s celebrations.
“Hospitals are getting packed, affecting medical care for all.”
The minister said both sides agreed the situation was critical, but medical experts will be consulted before action is decided.
Japan has never had a lockdown, attempting instead to juggle the need to keep the economy going with health risks. The issued warnings carry no penalties.
The government has also been sending conflicting messages with a campaign to encourage travel with discounts, although that has been discontinued.
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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has come under criticism over what some see as his mishandling of the pandemic. Japan has had more than 3,500 deaths so far related to the virus.