Japan declares state of emergency in Tokyo after record COVID-19 infections

Tokyo: Japan has declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three nearby areas as coronavirus cases continue to surge, hitting a daily record of 2,447 in the capital.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga issued the declaration which requires restaurants and bars to close at 8pm and people to stay home and not mingle in crowds.

People walk through the Shinjuku area as the Prime Minister is seen on a large screen announcing the state of emergency.Credit:Getty images

The declaration, which will stay in effect until February 7, carries no penalties, but it works as a strong request while Japan juggles to keep the economy going.

Shopping malls and schools will remain open. Movie theaters, museums and other events will be asked to reduce attendance. Places that defy the request will get publicised on a list, while those that comply will be eligible for aid, according to officials.

Coronavirus cases have been surging in Japan after the year-end and New Year’s holidays.

"I am confident we can overcome this, but I must ask all of you endure a restricted life for a while longer," Suga told reporters after the declaration.

He promised more aid for hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. The Japanese military is ready to help, and efforts are underway to get a vaccine approved and delivered, he added.

"Please take this matter seriously as your own, to protect all precious life, your parents, your grandparents, family and friends, over generations," Suga said.

Shigeru Omi, a doctor who heads the government panel on coronavirus measures, described the latest wave as "explosive," requiring the emergency declaration.

Tokyo has logged record numbers of daily cases for two straight days, after 1,591 on Wednesday. Nationwide, cases have been growing steadily by more than 5,000 a day.

Some experts say Japan should have acted sooner, and a government campaign to promote domestic travel through discounts was a mistake.

AP

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