Gov. Yuriko Koike on Friday said Tokyo may need to declare its own state of emergency after announcing a record-breaking 463 coronavirus cases.
“Tokyo is reaching a point where a state of emergency could become the best way to respond,” Koike said at a news conference Friday. “We need to do everything possible to avoid that scenario.”
The governor did not put forward criteria or tangible figures to serve as a threshold for the emergency, nor did she clarify whether she intends to issue fresh closure requests to businesses and schools.
However, amid an unprecedented surge of infections in urban centers throughout the country, municipal leaders like Koike — whose hands are bound by laws that prohibit issuing mandatory countermeasures and punishment for those who defy the voluntary requests — are running out of options.
Other prefectures are considering similar contingencies.
Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki is expected to declare a state of emergency after the prefecture reported 71 new cases, posting a record for five straight days, according to the Okinawa Times.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of the government’s coronavirus response, said it is reasonable for governments issue their own emergency declarations amid the surge.
Shigeru Omi, head of the government’s coronavirus subcommittee, said the state of emergency that ended in May was “effective to a certain degree” in containing the outbreak.
In Tokyo, city officials said around 5,542 polymerase chain reaction tests were conducted Tuesday. It takes roughly three days for results to come in, but that doesn’t mean all 463 cases announced Friday come from that batch.
Tokyo’s previous record was 367 cases set on Wednesday.
Young people in their 20s and 30s account for nearly 72 percent of Friday’s cases, while about 32 percent were traced back to Shinjuku.
Severe infections, however, dropped to 16 active cases from 22, but officials said the virus is spreading further into the western Tama region and among older individuals. As of Friday, the capital had reported over 12,600 infections and 330 deaths.
Koike also announced that preparations to establish a Tokyo CDC will begin in August and become operational in October.
Inspired by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tokyo’s CDC would bring together existing arms of the metropolitan government in an attempt to enhance testing capacity, expedite the reporting of new cases to the public and streamline the capital’s response to the ongoing pandemic.
As it did during the first major outbreak in April, the metro government has enlisted the help of hotels to serve as temporary housing facilities for mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 patients.
Six hotels in Tokyo — which together have 2,148 rooms, 1,260 of which are available for infected patients — were in operation. Officials say more will be made available in the near future.
Beginning Saturday, mass gatherings both indoors and outdoors in the capital will be limited to 5,000 people until the end of August.
On Thursday, the metro government asked karaoke bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to close at 10 p.m. and said ¥200,000 would be distributed to those that comply. The request will take effect Monday and last through the end of the month.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in seven prefectures in early April, broadening the order nationwide nine days later. The declaration was in effect until May 25.
Abe made the declaration following a revision of the New Influenza Special Measures Act, giving governors the authority to call on residents to avoid nonessential travel and issue closure requests to local businesses.
Ongoing debate has drawn attention to the potential merits of further revising the law to give municipal leaders greater authority. Earlier this month, Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura asked Abe to give governors the legal power to order businesses to close and impose fines should they disobey.
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