Coronavirus: Japan declares state of emergency in Tokyo

7 January 2021, 10:31 | Updated: 7 January 2021, 11:00

A state of emergency has been declared in Tokyo
A state of emergency has been declared in Tokyo. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Japan has declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three nearby areas as coronavirus cases continue to surge.

Prime minister Yoshihide Suga said the state of emergency begins on Friday until February 7.

Restaurants and bars are being asked close at 8pm and people are being told to stay at home and not mingle in crowds.

Japan reached a daily record of 2,447 cases in the capital.

Shopping centres and schools will remain open, while cinemas, museums and other events will be asked to reduce attendance. Places that defy the request will be named on a list, while those that comply will be eligible for aid, according to officials.

Coronavirus cases have been rising in Japan after the year-end and new year holidays.

Shigeru Omi, the doctor who heads the government panel on coronavirus measures, described the latest wave as "explosive", requiring the emergency declaration.

Tokyo has logged record daily cases for two straight days, after 1,591 on Wednesday. Cases nationwide have been growing steadily by more than 5,000 a day.

Some experts say Japan should have acted sooner, and the government campaign to promote travel through discounts was a mistake.

Opinion on having eateries close early is mixed, as they could become more crowded earlier.

Hiroshi Nishiura, an expert on infectious diseases, said the curve will be mitigated but will continue to rise, and believes more drastic action is needed.

No one thinks Covid-19 will be reduced to zero. That would take a vaccine, expected to start next month in Japan, with health and essential workers first. The rollout is likely to take months.

Atsuo Hamada, an expert on infections and professor at Tokyo Medical University Hospital, said curtailing night-time drinking and dining will help.

"When people go out to eat at night, they tend to get drunk, talk in loud voices and sing, so airborne infections spread more quickly".