Calls grow for another state of emergency extension

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks to the press on Friday.

The declaration of a novel coronavirus state of emergency in Okinawa Prefecture from Sunday through June 20 increases the list of prefectures under emergency measures to 10, including Tokyo and Osaka. The emergency period is scheduled to end on May 31 in all of the prefectures except Okinawa, but there have been calls in the government to push back the deadline again, possibly until June 20.

Osaka has begun coordinating views on another extension. “The situation continues to be extremely harsh. The current state of affairs does not warrant a discussion on ending the state of emergency,” Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said on Friday.

The governors of Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa prefectures held a teleconference on the day to share opinions on what action to take when the state of emergency period ends.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, “I will keep a close eye on the infection situation and make a decision at the end of this month.”

There have been calls for the emergency period to be pushed back to June 20, the same day the state of emergency is scheduled to end in Okinawa.

The government will hold discussions with its COVID-19 subcommittee of experts next week on the matter.

As there has been no considerable improvement in the infection situation, “Another extension is inevitable,” said a senior government official.

The central government’s decision-making has been influenced by experts and local government officials who attach importance to the impact of a state of emergency declaration.

The central government was not in favor of the proposal to declare an emergency for Okinawa Prefecture when it received a request on Wednesday, because the prefectural government had not asked eateries and bars to stop serving alcohol even though priority measures had been in place since April 12.

“It has not taken even the minimum required measures that are being implemented in other districts,” a senior government official said.

However, experts called for a state of emergency to be declared for the prefecture, believing that the declaration would serve as a “strong message” to Okinawans, with the infection situation at its most severe level, according to several indicators.

The government fears the impact of the state of emergency could be weakened if the areas subject to the declaration increase or the emergency period is extended repeatedly.

On May 14, the central government tried to avoid declaring a state of emergency for Hokkaido and two other prefectures, but the COVID-19 subcommittee was against the move.

It accepted Okinawa’s request for a state of emergency on the condition that the prefectural government asks local restaurants and bars to refrain from serving alcohol.

Seven of the 10 prefectures under a state of emergency had measures upgraded from quasi-emergency priority measures.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of coronavirus measures, said that “the priority measures had had recognizable effects.”

However, Miyagi and Ehime are the only prefectures where the measures have been or are to be lifted after success was achieved in curbing infections.