COVID-19 in Japan: towards an extension of the state of emergency to seven additional departments

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Tokyo | Japan was preparing on Wednesday to extend its state of emergency, already in place in Tokyo and its suburbs, to seven additional departments in the face of the progression of the coronavirus pandemic and the recent record numbers of recorded cases.

“We want at all costs that the infections register on a downward slope by February 7,” the date on which the measure must end in all the areas concerned, said Yasutoshi Nishimura, the Japanese minister in charge of the fight against COVID-19.

This expansion of the state of emergency was to be officially announced on Wednesday evening by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Less restrictive than that imposed last spring, the device mainly targets restaurants and bars, called upon to stop serving alcohol after 7 p.m. and close their doors at 8 p.m., and recommends that residents avoid unnecessary outings. .

Japanese law does not provide for penalties for failure to comply with instructions, even under a state of emergency, but the government is preparing a change in the law that would allow recalcitrant companies to be fined.

Financial incentives have also been announced for companies that play by the rules.

The system will be extended to the departments of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo (west), Aichi and Gifu (center), Fukuoka (southwest) and Tochigi (east).

With Tokyo and its large suburbs, eleven departments of the country will now be under a state of emergency. The areas concerned represent around 60% of Japan’s GDP and have a total of 70 million inhabitants, or 56% of the national population.

Japan has been relatively spared the pandemic so far, compared to other countries, with some 4,100 officially recorded deaths since January 2020 for nearly 300,000 cases of infections.

But the archipelago has suffered since last November a third wave much larger than the first two, threatening to saturate its hospitals.

A new national record was broken last Friday with nearly 8,000 new positive cases recorded in 24 hours.

Six months before the scheduled opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, postponed last year due to the pandemic, the state of emergency risks further dampening the enthusiasm of the Japanese population, already mainly in favor of ‘a new postponement or cancellation of the Olympic Games.

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