Japan is contemplating new COVID-19 emergency assertion


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Year-end shoppers wearing protective face masks are reflected in mirrors in a shopping and entertainment district amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo


TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will consider issuing a new emergency statement after governors in the capital region called for measures to combat a record spike in COVID-19 cases, the country's pandemic response head said on Saturday.

The government must consult with health experts before deciding on a new statement, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters after meeting with Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike and leaders from three neighboring prefectures.

"The national government and the three governors agreed that the situation in the Tokyo area is getting worse and an emergency statement may be required," said Nishimura.

As a provisional measure, restaurants and karaoke parlors in the Tokyo area would be asked to close at 8 p.m., while companies selling alcohol should close at 7 p.m., he said.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has resisted calls to restore a state of national emergency that the government instituted in April during an earlier wave of the pandemic. Suga is expected to speak publicly on January 4th.

It relied on voluntary shop closings and travel restrictions rather than rigid lockdown measures in parts of Europe and the United States.

Tokyo raised its COVID-19 alert level to its highest on December 17. The new infections in the capital reached a record of 1,337 on December 31, and number 814 on Saturday. On December 31, a national record was also set with 4,520 new infections.

The surge in COVID-19 cases is leading to a seasonal increase in hospital stays, said Fumie Sakamoto, infection control manager at St. Luke & # 39; s International Hospital in Tokyo.

"The Japanese government hasn't done much to control the infection," said Sakamoto. "I would expect the (infection) numbers to increase in the coming days and the emergency statement should have come earlier, probably in December or November."

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