Japan: state of emergency extended by two weeks for Greater Tokyo

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TOKYO | Less than five months before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics, the Japanese government extended for two weeks on Friday, until March 21, the state of emergency still in force in the capital and its three neighboring departments facing the coronavirus.

This device, which consists mainly of asking bars and restaurants to close at 8:00 p.m. and the population to avoid non-essential outings, had been lifted at the end of February in six departments of the country and was initially due to end this Sunday for Tokyo and its greater region. suburbs.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday called on the population to continue to avoid gatherings, as March in Japan marks the end of the school and university year, usually with ceremonies, as well as picnics of the “hanami” to admire the cherry blossoms.

“I ask you all to avoid group meals – even at graduation or hiring ceremonies (…) and flower-viewing parties,” Suga said.

In place since early January when Japan was experiencing a sharp upsurge in COVID-19, the state of emergency initially reduced the daily number of infections.

But it has been stable in the capital in recent weeks, with an average of around 270 new cases per day over the past seven days. And local authorities counted 301 new cases on Friday.

Mr. Suga had previously apologized for the extension of the state of emergency in Greater Tokyo, the country’s main economic lung and encompassing some 37 million inhabitants, assuring that the government was doing “everything possible to avoid a further rise ”in infections.

The departure of the Olympic torch relay, which will symbolically depart from Fukushima (northeastern Japan) ten years after the triple disaster of the great earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, is scheduled for March 25.

The organizers of the Tokyo Olympics, which are due to open on July 23, have planned restrictions they believe will allow the event to take place safely, without however requiring participants to be vaccinated or a period of isolation. arrival in the country.

A decision must be taken by the end of March on the presence or not of spectators from abroad. The organizers are leaning towards the second solution, several Japanese media reported this week.

Japan only last month launched the first stage of its coronavirus vaccination campaign, initially aimed at protecting 40,000 employees in its medical sector.

Despite a strong local upsurge of the virus between last November and January, the country has been relatively spared compared to other regions of the world, with around 8,100 deaths officially recorded in the archipelago since the start of the health crisis.