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Japan extends the state of emergency over coronavirus when infections climb

The country reported 4,527 new cases and 51 deaths on Tuesday, bringing the national number to nearly 300,000 with a death toll of 4,158. More than 61,500 patients are in hospitals across the country, which have struggled to tackle an increase in cases partly due to freezing winter temperatures.

Tokyo, which was previously among the hardest hit areas, reported 970 new cases on Tuesday, the first time the Japanese capital’s daily numbers have dropped to less than 1,000 in over a week. The total number of confirmed cases in Tokyo is now 77,133.

A state of emergency was previously declared for Tokyo and the three adjoining prefectures of Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa last week to be in place until 7 February.

The new announcement extends the order to Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, Gifu, Tochigi and Fukuoka, covering much of Japan̵

7;s main island of Honshu. Eleven prefectures in total are now under emergency measures.

The state of emergency orders companies to encourage their staff to work from home and reduce office populations by 70%. Residents in the affected areas are also urged to avoid non-essential excursions, and restaurants will have to stop serving alcohol at. 19 and close at. 20.

Sporting and entertainment events in Japan are also requested to limit the number of participants.

Suga called for public co-operation after announcing the expanded measures on Wednesday.

“I hope people understand that this is an indispensable measure to improve this difficult situation. We will do everything we need to do. I apologize for the inconvenience that caused your life with many limitations, but we must overcome this , “he said at a news conference.

“I would like to ask for the cooperation of the people.”

However, unlike a number of other countries that have introduced lockdowns and social distancing measures, Japan lacks much legal power to enforce government orders. The country is also battling coronavirus fatigue after being among the earliest victims of the pandemic and mixed messages in recent months.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called for public cooperation after announcing the expanded measures on Wednesday.
“Japan’s response is too slow and confusing, reflecting a lack of leadership and strategy. On the one hand, they encouraged domestic travel and dining, on the other hand, they just asked people to take caution,” said Kenji Shibuya, director of the Department of Population. Health at King’s College London, said earlier this month. “The government basically asks people voluntarily to behave properly, but does no more than that.”

Satoshi Kamayachi, a doctor and member of the government’s expert advisory council, told CNN subsidiary TV Asahi following the Tokyo emergency order that it was “not enough time to slow down the wave of infection, we need to reduce human contact further.”

Japanese officials are believed to be wary of imposing a complete lockdown or other more stringent emergency measures for fear of harming the economy. The country is also once again facing difficult decisions around the Olympics, which were to take place last summer but were eventually postponed as the pandemic spread around the world.

The Tokyo Games are scheduled to be held this summer from July 23 to August 8, according to the International Olympic Committee, with open and closing ceremonies held in accordance with an “overall simplification of the Games.”

Last week, the Tokyo metropolitan government said it would postpone the upcoming exhibitions of the Tokyo Olympic torch “to reduce the flow of people and prevent the spread of Covid-19.” The torch had been exhibited in several municipalities from November and was to be restarted this week.

In a New Year’s speech to Tokyo 2020 staff this week, President Yoshiro Mori said preparations would continue “as planned”, adding that “I think everything will be affected if I scratch my head or show determination . “

“We come out of this dark tunnel in cooperation with you. I want you all to do your best until the end to bring many people joy and hope in the belief that spring comes after winter and morning always comes after a long night, “said Mori.

Japan is battling coronavirus fatigue after being among the earliest affected by the pandemic and mixed messages in recent months.
A recent poll by the Japanese public television station NHK showed that 77% of respondents thought that the games should be postponed again or completely canceled, with only 16% in favor of them being held this year.

Speaking to CNN, former International Olympic Committee chief Dick Pound said it was unlikely the Games could be postponed again and that any further delay would likely mean their cancellation.

“The one-year postponement was a proposal from Japan, and the organizing committee said ‘look, we can keep this together for another year, but no longer,'” he said. “Postponing it for another year, for example, would cost a huge price that Japan may not be willing to incur. It will further complicate a crowded sports plan … you want the World Cup and football going, and at some point there is just too much congestion in the overall system. “

He rejected the proposal that the Tokyo Olympics could be moved to 2024, and all planned host cities shifted forward again after being from humans “without any idea of ​​what it (plan) means in real life.”

CNN’s James Griffiths contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

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