Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told residents to avoid unnecessary trips outdoors as much as possible during a forthcoming four-day weekend as the total number of coronavirus cases in the city topped 10,000.
“I want residents to avoid going out as much as possible,” Koike said at a meeting of a panel of experts advising the city. “If you are going outside, take the utmost precautions to avoid infection.”
Koike said Japan’s capital reported 238 cases on Wednesday, ahead of a holiday that starts Thursday. The long weekend was originally scheduled to celebrate the start of the now-postponed Tokyo Olympic Games.
Hospitalizations in Tokyo have jumped almost five-fold over the past month, though authorities have stressed the medical system is not under stress. Just 14 of those hospitalized are listed as serious cases, in an ICU or on a ventilator, and the city has had only two deaths in the past month. The city had over 3,800 cases so far this month, more than the previous peak in April when the city entered its state of emergency.
Tokyo residents may have a feeling of deja vu as Koike also urged people to stay indoors back in March, when cases began to creep up. A series of steps then followed toward declaring the state of emergency, which was lifted on May 25. Authorities have repeatedly insisted that the current situation does not require such steps.
“There’s no change to the direction to carefully reopen the economy,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters on Wednesday. “At the same time we will take steps to prevent the spread of infection and keep serious cases low.”
Tokyo and the national government have disagreed on the severity of the current outbreak, with the two unable to reach agreement on whether Tokyo residents should be asked to avoid traveling to other regions. Wednesday marks the beginning of a nationwide tourism campaign aimed at promoting rural travel, from which Tokyo was excluded at the last minute.
“What a shambles,” heavyweight opposition politician Ichiro Ozawa said on Twitter of the reports that Koike would urge people to stay home. “The national and local governments can’t even do the bare minimum of cooperation. The whole thing is a contradiction. On the one hand they’re encouraging national travel, on the other they’re making requests, with no compensation, close to the state of emergency.”
The four-day weekend which begins Thursday was planned to celebrate the start of the Tokyo Olympics, which had been set to take place this Friday before Japan and the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the games by a year.
When that decision was made, Tokyo was reporting well under 100 cases a day. Last week infections hit a record of 293 in a single day, raising concerns among officials that infections were spreading beyond bars and nightlife hotspots initially blamed for the surge in the city.
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