Tokyo, January 4 (Reuters) – Japan is considering declaring a state of emergency for Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures as early as this week, Fuji TV reported on Monday, as coronavirus cases climb and strain the country’s medical system.
Japan saw a record 4,520 new cases on Dec. 31 in a fresh wave of infections, prompting the capital and neighbouring prefectures to call on the national government to announce an emergency declaration.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has so far resisted those calls, mindful of the potential damage to the economy. He is set to hold a news conference to mark the start of 2021 at 11 a.m. (0200 GMT).
As an interim measure, restaurants and karaoke parlours in the Tokyo area are being asked to close at 8 p.m., while businesses that serve alcohol should close at 7 p.m.
If declared, it would be the second time parts of Japan have entered a state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic. The first lasted for more than a month last spring, when schools and non-essential businesses were asked to close.
Japan has relied on voluntary closures and travel restrictions rather than the sort of rigid lockdown measures seen elsewhere in the world.
Although the case numbers in Japan pale in comparison to many parts of Europe and the Americas, Suga has the challenge of hosting the Olympics in Tokyo this summer after the pandemic caused the Games’ first-ever delay in 2020.