Economic Revitalization Minister Says Japan will Consider New State of Emergency Declaration

The Yomiuri Shimbun
From left, Saitama Gov. Motohiro Ono, Chiba Gov. Kensaku Morita, economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa speak to the press Saturday in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the central government “will have to listen carefully to the opinions of experts” regarding the declaration of another state of emergency, indicating that the government would carefully consider the issue.

Nishimura was speaking with reporters Saturday after a meeting with the governors of Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa. At the meeting, the governers asked that a state of emergency once more be declared under the special measures law to cope with new strains of influenza.

The meeting lasted more than three hours. Afterward the governors, including Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, and Nishimura were interviewed by reporters together.

“Given the number of positive cases and the current state of the medical system, the flow of people must be immediately and thoroughly curbed,” Koike said. She also said that she had called during the meeting for immediate discussions on such matters as the industries that would be asked to close.

“We shared the understanding that the situation is so severe that declaring a state of emergency is coming into sight,” said Nishimura. “The central government understands and will consider the matter.”

At the meeting, Nishimura made such requests to the four governors as closing restaurants and other establishments at 8:00 p.m., halting the service of alcoholic beverages at 7:00 p.m. and having people refrain from non-essential outings after 8:00 p.m.. He also sought the thorough utilization of teleworking and prevention measures at workplaces and schools, as well as the tightening of requirements for holding events.

Nishimura expressed his intention to hasten the revision of the special measure law to ensure its effectiveness.

The governors of Tokyo and the three prefectures decided to request another declaration of a state of emergency because new infections with the novel coronavirus have been steadily rising. Tokyo’s weekly average of new cases was about 150 in late October last year, but in mid-December the figure exceeded 500.

On Thursday, 1,337 new cases were confirmed in the capital, exceeding 1,000 for the first time. As of Saturday, 94 people were in serious condition, the largest number since the lifting of the state of emergency declared from April to May last year. The figure is approaching the record high of 105 seen during the state of emergency.

Likewise, the medical system is under pressure, with 2,781 people hospitalized as of Saturday, and 79% of the 3,500 beds reserved by the Tokyo metropolitan government for COVID-19 patients in use.

However, the government remains cautious about again declaring a state of emergency.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga received a report from health ministry senior officials at the prime minister’s official residence on Saturday. The government plans to hold a meeting of its expert subcommittee on coronavirus countermeasures to analyze the situation.

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency on April 7 last year for seven prefectures, including Tokyo, and expanded it to all 47 prefectures on April 16. Initially, it was to be lifted on May 6, but the government extended it through May 25.