People in the greater Tokyo area expressed anxiety Thursday about how their lives and businesses will be impacted by the declaration of another state of emergency in Tokyo and neighboring areas amid record numbers of COVID-19 cases.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's decision to declare a monthlong state of emergency to Feb. 7 was met with skepticism from some residents, who questioned the effect it will have on curbing infections.
"We have started to understand what kind of disease it is, so I feel like we are not facing the same sense of urgency that we had in spring last year," said Kunio Iyonaga, a 48-year-old commuter from Yokohama, at Tokyo's busy Shimbashi Station.
"But I still want (the government) to show us what we can do exactly to prevent infections," said Iyonaga, who has been working from home four days a week due to the spread of the virus.
The emergency declaration was set to come a day after the number of new infections in a day in Japan exceeded 6,000 for the first time, increasing concerns over strain on the medical system.
A 38-year-old mother in the city of Saitama, who saw her 8-year-old son off to elementary school on Thursday morning, said, "I wonder if this will be enough. I want (the government) to impose stricter measures to fix the current situation."
Toshio Nakagawa, president of the Japan Medical Association, on Wednesday welcomed the government's plan to declare a state of emergency but said it should look into the possibility of expanding coverage of the declaration to the whole country.
Residents in the area subject to the emergency — Tokyo and the prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama — will be asked to stay home. The government will also call for businesses including restaurants, entertainment facilities and department stores to close earlier.
In Asakusa, one of the most popular tourism spots in Tokyo, souvenir store owner Yoko Kikuchi expressed worry over the impact of the restrictions. During the previous declaration in spring last year, the streets were empty, she said.
"People were outside during the year-end and New Year's holidays. I don't think there will be a significant drop (in the number of people) compared to last time," Kikuchi, 76, said.
While her store has had fewer customers from abroad since last year, Kikuchi said she has received support from local people, who purchased goods to give to their relatives. "I want to survive this somehow and see more customers in the springtime," she said.
A 66-year-old selling roasted chestnuts in Yokohama's Chinatown said, "As it has already been difficult, it is hard to accept that further restrictions will be implemented."
Kaede Mochizuki, 19, who was visiting Chinatown with a friend, said he has only been to university a few times since last year because of the pandemic.
"It really hurts to think that I won't be able to go to (university) for a long time again," he said.
A Tokyo Metropolitan Government official said, "We have a sense of crisis. I wonder how effective the declaration will be, but we need to do what we can."
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.