Japan to enter state of emergency as Covid-19 cases soar

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#Speaking at a #New #Years press conference on #Monday, #Prime #Minister #Yoshihide #Suga said a declaration of emergency was under consideration and would apply to #Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures of #Chiba, #Saitama and #Kanagawa. #Governors from all four regions have all urged #Suga to do so already, as cases increase.

“#If necessary, we will not hesitate to send medical personnel from the #Self-Defense #Force,” #Suga added, saying the government will support medical facilities to ensure they are not overwhelmed.

#Suga did not say when the government would make a decision, or what restrictions might be enacted. #Japan’s first state of emergency, declared last spring, relatively early in the pandemic, lasted more than a month and saw the closure of non-essential schools and businesses.

#Japanese authorities are currently limited in their powers to punish those who violate the restrictions, even in a state of emergency, which #Suga’s government plans to change to allow local governments to force compliance.
The prime minister, who took power last #September after #Shinzo #Abe resigned, has seen his approval rating drop in recent weeks, in part due to his handling of the pandemic.

#Japan recorded 3,150 new cases and 51 deaths on #Sunday, bringing the national total to 244,559, with more than 3,612 deaths. The greater #Tokyo area was among the worst affected, with 816 new cases on #Sunday after last #Thursday setting a new one-day high of 1337.

#Japan confirmed its first cases of the potentially more infectious new variant of #British coronavirus last week, prompting the government to ban all foreign travelers from entering the country.
#Cases across the country have increased in recent weeks in part due to the winter cold and fatigue from social distancing.

#Japan was one of the first countries hit by the pandemic, but the government was able to keep cases at bay by enacting tough border controls, investing in contact tracing, and pushing its citizens to practice social distancing. . The efforts have been largely successful, as #Japan has managed to avoid the type of strict lockdowns put in place in other parts of the world.

#Japanese health officials have repeatedly urged citizens to curtail their daily activities, stay vigilant and eat in small numbers, but that no longer appears to be enough to prevent the spread of the pandemic.

“#Japan’s response is too slow and confusing, reflecting the lack of leadership and strategy. #On the one hand, they encouraged domestic travel and restaurants, on the other hand, they just asked people to be careful, ”said #Kenji #Shibuya, director of the #Institute for #Population #Health at #King’s. #College of #London. “The government basically asks people to behave properly, but doesn’t do more than that. ”

#Suga rejected calls to declare a state of emergency in #November, citing advice from an advisory committee that hospitals were still relatively empty. #However, the total number of cases in #Japan has more than doubled since then.
#Japanese authorities are believed to be reluctant to introduce a lockdown or other emergency measures for fear of harming the economy. The country is also once again facing difficult decisions around OIympiques, which were due to take place last summer but were ultimately postponed as the pandemic spread around the world.
The #Tokyo #Games are scheduled this summer from #July 23 to #August 8, according to the #International #Olympic #Committee, with refined opening and closing ceremonies as part of a “global simplification of the #Games”.

The question of whether and how many foreign spectators will be able to attend the #Olympics must be settled in the spring.

The success of the #Olympics will likely depend on how quickly vaccination programs can be rolled out around the world, especially in #Japan itself. #Vaccination programs are not expected to start in #Japan until the end of #February, far behind some other countries. #At #Monday’s press conference, #Suga said frontline medical workers and the elderly will be the first groups to receive the vaccinations, adding that the government has advanced the schedule due to the latest outbreak.
#However, the #Japanese authorities will also have to deal with what should be widespread antipathy to the vaccine: #Japan ranks “among the countries with the lowest vaccine confidence in the world,” according to a recent study by the #Lancet.

#Suga vowed to “take the initiative” in vaccination, and said #Monday that successful #Olympics would serve as “proof that humans have defeated the coronavirus.”

#Junko #Ogura reported from #Tokyo, #Japan, #James #Griffiths reported from #Hong #Kong. CNN’s #Joshua #Berlinger and #Selina #Wang contributed reporting.

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