Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike announced a plan to simultaneously reboot the city’s economy and prevent a second wave of coronavirus infections if the prefectures still under the state of emergency are released next week.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government will decide how and when to incrementally lift social distancing measures and voluntary business closure requests based on seven criteria measured over a span of two weeks.
“This is the final stretch,” Koike said during a meeting of the metropolitan government’s coronavirus task force on Friday. “We need to proceed cautiously, but each day the city meets these criteria is another step toward reclaiming the lives we had before.”
As of Friday, Tokyo had reported more than 5,000 cases and 247 deaths. Daily infections have been in the low double digits for more than a week now, and officials are hopeful the city is almost out of the woods.
The governor said the capital will monitor new and untraceable cases and whether they rise or fall compared with the previous week. Other factors to be monitored include number of hospitalized patients, including those with severe symptoms, infection rate among those given the polymerase chain reaction test, and amount of calls and consultations received by coronavirus hotlines.
If infections emerge again, residents will be warned using a new system called “Tokyo Alert.” If daily infections exceed 50, more than half are untraceable or cases have doubled since the previous week, the reinstating of emergency measures will be considered.
Tokyo is on the tail end of the first wave of the novel coronavirus, the plan says. Infections may fluctuate as the city emerges from the state of emergency, but a “new lifestyle” will be necessary to prevent a second wave, it says.
To prevent and prepare for a resurgence, the city aims to increase its PCR testing capacity to 3,100 per day by more than doubling its number of sites, and secure 3,300 more hospital beds for severe patients and 2,865 for mild patients to be isolated in temporary housing.
Restrictive measures will be peeled back in stages once the emergency is lifted. Museums, libraries and other cultural institutions will be urged to reopen if they maintain certain precautions, and food establishments will be asked to close at 10 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. Public events will be deemed acceptable if capped at 50 people.
If all goes well, the second stage will see facilities with no history of cluster infections urged to reopen and events will be capped at 100 people.
In the third stage, all facilities with no cluster histories will be allowed to reopen, food establishments will be encouraged to operate until midnight and public events will be limited to 1,000 people.
Though Koike does not have the authority to declare a state of emergency, she can ask residents to voluntarily isolate and businesses to temporarily close. These requests could be lifted next week if the state of emergency is lifted for the five remaining prefecutres, but Koike said she will put them back into effect if warranted.
The state of emergency was initially declared for eight prefectures by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on April 7. It was extended nine days later to the rest of the country.
The declaration was originally set to expire on May 7, but was extended to the end of the month.
It was lifted early for 39 of the 47 prefectures last week and three more in Kansai on Thursday. Abe is expected to lift the order in the remaining five — Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama and Hokkaido — after a panel meets on Monday.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.