Pedestrians stand in strong wind in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday. Reuters
Gulf Today Report
Japan's government declared a month-long coronavirus state of emergency in the greater Tokyo area on Thursday as the capital reported another record surge in daily infections.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga described a "great sense of crisis" as he announced the measure, which begins Friday and is less strict than the harsh lockdowns seen elsewhere or even the country's first virus emergency last spring.
It primarily targets restaurants and bars, which will be asked to stop serving alcohol by 7 pm and close an hour later.
Suga made a special appeal to young people to abide by the requests, saying that more than half of recent new infections in greater Tokyo were among the under-30s.
"Please act... in order to save precious lives of your parents, grandfathers, grandmothers and friends," he said.
People wearing protective masks walk in the Shibuya area of Tokyo on Thursday. AP
In Tokyo and three surrounding areas that petitioned the government to make the move, businesses will also be urged to maximise teleworking with the goal of reducing commuter traffic by 70 percent.
Japanese law does not currently allow authorities to enforce cooperation with the requests, although the government is planning legislation permitting fines for businesses that do not comply.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a meeting. File photo
For now, subsidies will be offered to businesses that close early, and the government could name-and-shame those that fail to do so.
Tokyo recorded 2,447 new cases on Thursday -- shattering the previous record of 1,591 logged a day earlier, and representing a sizeable chunk of the 7,490 new cases reported nationwide.
Still, Japan's outbreak remains comparatively small, with around 3,700 deaths overall.
Responding to pressure from Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures in eastern Japan, Suga last week declared a one-month state of emergency for that region until Feb.7.
The state of emergency, which is a non-binding request, centers around asking restaurants, bars and other businesses to voluntarily close at 8pm. Japan has never had a mandatory lockdown, but has managed to keep infections relatively low with social distancing and such voluntary measures.
Japan placed 11 of its 47 prefectures under a state of emergency in January as a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation. One of those prefectures, Tochigi, has already emerged early from the emergency restrictions.
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