Amid a surge in novel coronavirus infections in Tokyo, the Japanese government has said that the possibility of again declaring a state of emergency remains an option, but only “in a worst-case scenario.”
Speaking at a regular news conference Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, said that although a rise in infections centered in Tokyo have been reported in recent days, these daily numbers were mainly due to cluster infections and a more aggressive testing regime.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Wednesday confirmed 67 new infections of the novel coronavirus — the highest daily figure since 87 were reported on May 4. It was the sixth straight day in which the figure topped 50, with the new cases bringing the cumulative number of infections in Tokyo to 6,292.
According to a breakdown of Wednesday’s figure by the metropolitan government, 47 of the 67 cases had had close contact with infected persons, while 49 were individuals in their 20s and 30s. Many of the cases in recent days have been of young people and those who have visited nightlife areas in the capital. None have developed serious conditions and many have been asymptomatic.
According to Suga, while the current situation doesn’t necessitate a return to the state of emergency, “we need to stay cautious and pay close attention” to how it develops in order to both prevent the disease from spreading and keep socioeconomic activities moving along.
“If the number of new patients keeps increasing despite those efforts, there’s a possibility of declaring the state of emergency as a worst case scenario,” he said, adding that such a move would take into account not only the number of new cases, but also the speed of infections spreading, the rate of cases with unknown infection routes and the burden on the health care system.
The comments by Suga, who held the news conference without wearing a mask for the first time in nearly three months, reflected a slight shift from remarks Monday that any return to the state of emergency was far from being on the government’s mind.
On Monday, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike announced revisions to the city’s guidelines on monitoring the ongoing spread of the virus in which numerical thresholds were abandoned and more emphasis was put on the capital’s health care system and its ability to cope as a basis for deciding whether to implement business closure requests and other virus countermeasures.
A state of emergency was initially declared for Tokyo and six other prefectures on April 7 and was expanded nationwide later that month. It was fully lifted in May in stages.
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