The Tokyo Metropolitan Government re-sounded the alarm for the capital after 34 new coronavirus infections were confirmed in the city Tuesday, a day after it eased business closure requests for sports gyms and department stores.
“The purpose of this alert is to make residents aware of our precarious situation and urge them to be cautious,” Gov. Yuriko Koike said during a meeting of the city’s coronavirus task force on Tuesday night.
Officials say the brief rise in new cases can largely be attributed to nosocomial infections as well as people partaking in nightlife activities in the Shinjuku area.
To convey the alert, the Rainbow Bridge on Tokyo Bay and the metropolitan government’s city offices were illuminated in red from 11 p.m.
If the pneumonia-causing virus continues to spread at a disconcerting rate, Gov. Yuriko Koike said she will consider reactivating business shutdown requests.
The number of daily infections, which topped 200 on April 17, had been in general decline since then and hit a low of two on May 23. But it has since then increased to above 10 cases in Tokyo in eight of the past 10 days.
The metropolitan government had given seven criteria for issuing the alert, including new daily infections not exceeding 20 on average in the past week, but Tokyo has breached some of those thresholds since May 29. This marks the first time since May 14 that more than 30 cases have been reported in Tokyo in a single day.
Experts have warned that reopening society abruptly or prematurely could lead to a second wave. With the latest infections of the pneumonia-causing virus, the total COVID-19 cases in the capital rose to 5,283, with 306 deaths. Nationwide, 50 new infections were confirmed on Tuesday, raising the total tally to 16,951 cases with 902 deaths, excluding cruise ship-related cases, according to Kyodo News.
New cases in the capital had been in the low double digits since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the state of emergency on May 25 in all remaining prefectures, including Tokyo. But residents and officials have become increasingly concerned as the number of new cases reported each day has fluctuated.
As of Tuesday, the number of new cases in Tokyo averaged about 16.3 — 50 percent of which were untraceable — with new cases having more than doubled from the previous week and some figures exceeding the criteria for issuing an alert, according to the metropolitan government.
Tokyo’s decision to enter phase two just a week after Abe lifted the state of emergency has drawn criticism that the city is moving too fast, with Gov. Yuriko Koike looking to continue moving forward with her plan to lift business closure requests to revive the local economy.
Under phase two, closure requests for movie theaters, gyms, department stores and other entertainments venues with no history of cluster infections were lifted Monday, and the limit for mass gatherings was capped at 100 people for indoor events and 200 for those held outside.
In phase three of the city’s plan, pachinko parlors, bars and arcades and other such facilities will be urged to reopen. Restaurants will be allowed to stay open until midnight, and public events will be limited to 1,000 people.