Japan mulls extension of coronavirus measure

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrives at his office on Thursday.

The government began to consider on Thursday an extension of the quasi-emergency measures in 13 of the 34 prefectures where they are now in effect, including Tokyo, Aichi and Nagasaki, as the quasi-emergency period for the 13 prefectures is supposed to end on Feb. 13.

The extension period is expected to be two or three weeks. The government plans to decide on the extension as early as Feb. 10, after hearing the opinions of each prefecture.

As COVID-19 infections continue to spread in these prefectures, there is a growing opinion among senior central government officials that the quasi-emergency measures to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus should be continued for some time.

The government is cautious about declaring a full-fledged state of emergency and hopes to curb the spread of the virus by continuing to implement the quasi-emergency measures. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference Thursday that the quasi-emergency measures are “working effectively to a certain extent” as the rise in the number of new cases nationwide is slowing.

In the Tokyo metropolitan government, there is also a growing consensus that an extension is inevitable. The increase in new infections in Tokyo has slowed, but the daily tallies topped 20,000 on both Wednesday and Thursday. The occupancy rate of hospital beds for COVID patients in Tokyo was 53.1% as of Thursday.

Meanwhile, the government’s COVID-19 task force decided Thursday to apply quasi-emergency measures to Wakayama Prefecture. As a result, the areas for the measures are being expanded to cover a total of 35 prefectures. The quasi-emergency period for Wakayama is set to run from Feb. 5 through Feb. 27.

Aside from Wakayama and the 13 prefectures for which an extension is being considered, the quasi-emergency period is set to end on Feb. 20 in 21 prefectures, including Okinawa, Hokkaido and Osaka.