Give full explanations to get public on board with emergency regulations

With two weeks left until the opening of the Tokyo Olympics, a decision has been made to ask the public to refrain from social activities.

To ensure that regulations are effective to an appropriate extent, it is necessary to explain to the public the purpose and significance of the infection control measures in an easy-to-understand manner, and seek their cooperation.

The government has decided to declare a fourth state of emergency for Tokyo. The state of emergency currently in place for Okinawa Prefecture, and the less strict priority measures for Osaka Prefecture and three prefectures in the Tokyo metropolitan area — Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa — will be extended.

At a press conference, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, “We must absolutely avoid a situation in which infections spread from Tokyo.” Regarding the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, every possible effort must be made to ensure a safe Games, including not allowing spectators into venues.

The government initially had considered extending the priority measures for Tokyo as well. However, as the number of novel coronavirus cases is approaching 1,000 a day, the government may have judged that it had to take stronger action to hold the Games.

The number of people in their 40s to 50s with severe COVID-19 symptoms has been increasing, and it is said the original form of the virus is being replaced by the delta virus variant that was first identified in India and is believed to be highly contagious.

In Tokyo and Okinawa Prefecture, the central government will ask eating and drinking establishments that serve alcohol to suspend operations. In addition to thorough patrols by local governments to check whether businesses are complying with the request, the central government intends to ask liquor wholesalers to refrain from dealing with eating and drinking establishments that serve alcohol.

Some experts are reportedly also arguing for stricter restrictions that not only target eating and drinking establishments, but also cultural and sporting events, among others, in line with Olympic spectator restrictions.

However, many businesses, including eating and drinking establishments, have repeatedly made capital investments and taken appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

If the government imposes uniform restrictions, there is a fear that the measures could inflame opposition to holding the Games. It should carefully consider the composition of the restrictions while determining the actual situation of infection control measures.

The government plans to introduce a system in which eating and drinking establishments will be provided with cooperation money in advance. Immediate support is needed.

In order to break the vicious cycle of infection spikes being repeatedly followed by state of emergency declarations, it is essential to accelerate vaccinations and drastically expand the medical care system.

Vaccinations of the elderly are progressing, but there is an urgent need to expand the rollout among the working generation. The prime minister should exercise his leadership to eliminate the bottleneck of vaccine supply and improve the current situation in which vaccinations at municipalities and workplaces are at a standstill.

The number of hospitals that have accepted coronavirus patients increased by 80% in the past six months, with 37% of all medical facilities reportedly cooperating. More medical workers are getting vaccinated. There is room for more hospitals to cooperate in accepting patients.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on July 9, 2021.