National

Abe says no need for new emergency declaration as coronavirus cases surge

JIJI, KYODO

The government does not think it necessary to declare a state of emergency over the novel coronavirus again, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said, despite a nationwide surge in the number of cases.

“We’re doing careful monitoring with a strong sense of tension, but we’re not in a situation that immediately warrants the issuance of a fresh state of emergency declaration,” Abe told reporters.

“We ask the public to take full precautions” against COVID-19, he said after a meeting on the situation with economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, health minister Katsunobu Kato and others.

Referring to the conditions that could help spread the virus, Abe said, “We ask people to avoid the 3Cs and to refrain from speaking loudly.” The 3Cs refer to confined spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings.

He also said virus testing capacity has not maxed out yet despite a recent surge of testers, and vowed to engage further in the early detection of infected people and treatment.

Separately, Nishimura told a news conference that the government will disclose the names of bars and other establishments that do not follow guidelines for infection prevention if any coronavirus outbreak occurs there.

Nishimura spoke after holding a teleconference with the governors of eight prefectures, including hard-hit Tokyo, Osaka and Aichi.

The participants agreed that COVID-19 prevention measures should in general be strengthened at eating and drinking establishments serving alcohol, including those providing hospitality services.

At the news conference, Nishimura said he hope that the industry would strictly follow the guidelines.

In the event of outbreaks at establishments failing to observe the guidelines, their names would be disclosed under Article 16 of the infectious disease prevention law, he said.

He also said the public should refrain from holding drinking parties involving many people for the time being.

“We should keep our guard high,” Nishimura said, warning of a further spread of infections. He said additional efforts will be made to secure more hospital beds for coronavirus patients and hotel rooms for carriers with mild or no symptoms.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported on Friday 260 new COVID-19 cases, down from the previous day’s record figure, as more than 770 infections were reported nationwide, including a record high in Osaka.

The latest data came a day after Tokyo reported a record 366 daily cases. Although the figure was fewer than Thursday’s tally, Tokyo has seen triple-digit single-day new infections on all but two days in July.

The latest figures on Friday brought the nationwide tally to more than 28,960 infections, excluding some 700 from the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama in February, with 1,008 deaths.

As of Friday in Tokyo, the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus infections stood at 1,040, up 76 from the previous day, while those with severe symptoms decreased by five to 16, according to the metropolitan government.

The latest report of infections brought the total number of infections in the capital to 10,680, with infections via unknown routes accounting for 60 percent.

On Wednesday, the capital’s cumulative coronavirus cases topped the 10,000 mark.

Along with Tokyo, some other urban areas have also seen sharp rises in confirmed cases since a nationwide state of emergency was fully lifted in late May.

The Osaka Prefectural Government said it had confirmed 149 new coronavirus cases, a single-day record for the prefecture.

The figure exceeded the number of projected peak per day, 130, which serves as a basis for the prefecture’s calculation for the necessary number of hospital beds.

It was the third straight day for new infections in the prefecture to top 100, according to the Osaka government.

In Aichi Prefecture, 63 new infections were confirmed Friday, according to public broadcaster NHK. The prefecture announced a record 97 new cases the previous day.

In Fukuoka Prefecture, 52 new cases of coronavirus infection were confirmed, according to the prefecture and three local governments, while 45 cases were confirmed in Saitama Prefecture near Tokyo.

Concern that the outbreak may worsen was stoked by a domestic tourism subsidy initiative that kicked off before a four-day holiday began Thursday, despite reservations among the public and local governments.

According to a survey by mobile carrier KDDI Corp. using location data of smartphones, the number of people who went out increased at 18 of the 23 surveyed sites on Thursday, the first day of the four-day holiday, compared with last Sunday.

Ise Jingu, a Shinto shrine and a popular tourist destination in Mie Prefecture, recorded the largest margin of increase.

The holiday outings also increased from Sunday in various places stretching from northern to southern Japan, such as around Hakodate Station in Hokkaido, Yufuin in Oita Prefecture, and Yui Road on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa Prefecture, according to the survey.

The recent spike in cases in the capital has spurred worries about the travel subsidy campaign, leading the government to exclude Tokyo from the program in a last-minute decision.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has urged residents to avoid nonessential outings during the four-day holiday, having raised the pandemic alert to the highest of four levels, meaning “infections are spreading.”

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