National

Essential services to run in Tokyo even if national emergency declared, Koike assures

KYODO, JIJI

Tokyo residents will be asked to refrain from leaving home but essential services will continue operating should Japan declare a state of emergency due to the novel coronavirus, Gov. Yuriko Koike said.

The guidelines, announced Friday in advance to prevent public confusion, said stores selling such essentials as food and medical supplies, as well as services needed to keep society and the economy running, such as banks, will stay in business even during a state of emergency.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government will ask facilities and event organizers to limit or cease activities to prevent the often deadly virus from spreading further. It also plans to establish a call center to handle inquiries from citizens and businesses.

"I released the draft outline on emergency measures so citizens and businesses can adequately prepare in advance," Koike said at a news conference.

The capital confirmed 89 new coronavirus cases on Friday as the struggle to contain the disease known as COVID-19 continued. The new number pushed Tokyo's total to 773, a day after the capital recorded its largest daily increase of 97.

Nationwide, the number of infections topped 3,700, including about 700 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship saga earlier this year.

Koike also announced the metropolitan government's plans to have coronavirus carriers with mild or no symptoms stay in their homes or in hotels to save hospital beds for those in severe condition as cases surge. There are also plans to transfer, in stages, hospital patients who are asymptomatic carriers or mildly ill to a Tokyo hotel it is leasing, starting next week. Details, such the type of medical care and health management such people will receive, will be decided later.

"The hotel industry has voiced eagerness to cooperate with the initiative, so we're really grateful," Koike said.

In the capital, applications for the emergency loan program for small and midsize companies under the Tokyo's economic support plan have amounted to around ¥120 billion ($1.1 billion), well above the initial offer of ¥24.8 billion, Koike said, adding that the city will unveil additional measures around April 15.

The Osaka Prefectural Government on Thursday announced its own response plan in the event of an emergency declaration, which includes requesting schools, kindergartens and some nursing facilities to limit operations.

It will also request that residents stay indoors except for occasions such as going out to buy groceries.

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