Japan refuses state of emergency despite Tokyo outbreak

Governor Yuriko Koike says Tokyo is on amber alert – the third most severe in a four-rank scale. (AP pic)

TOKYO: Japan will not reintroduce a state of emergency to tackle the novel coronavirus, a government spokesman said on Friday, as cases in Tokyo rose to a two-month high driven by the spread of the virus in the capital’s nightspots.

Tokyo reported 124 new cases on Friday, up from 107 the day before, partly due to increased testing among nightlife workers in the Shinjuku and Ikebukuro districts.

But despite the spike, the number of serious cases is declining and there was no need to reinstate the state of emergency that was lifted on May 25, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

Japan’s infection rates remain far below many other countries but the rising number of cases and the possibility of renewed restrictions have put the authorities and businesses on edge.

Tokyo is on amber alert – the third most severe in a four-rank scale – Governor Yuriko Koike said, with its medical facilities ranked at the lesser yellow level, indicating they are not in immediate risk of being overwhelmed.

“We will prevent the spread of infection while maintaining daily life,” said Koike, Tokyo’s first female governor who is expected to win a second term comfortably in an election on Sunday after a campaign dominated by the pandemic.

Preventive measures have already pushed Japan’s economy into a recession in the first quarter, with a deeper contraction expected in the April-June quarter.

The state of emergency gave governors of Japan’s 47 prefectures stronger legal authority to urge people to stay home and businesses to close, but there were no fines or arrests for non-compliance.

The government is considering revising the law to strengthen enforcement of lockdown requests, Jiji news agency reported, adding that it would aim to submit a bill before or during the ordinary session of parliament next year.

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