A senior ruling party official said Sunday that additional economic support measures will be necessary in the event that the current coronavirus state of emergency is extended.
“It’s very important that (the government) come up with strong economic measures as the coronavirus (pandemic) has not been put under control,” Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Hakubun Shimomura said during a TV program Sunday.
Additional measures for nonregular workers and women, in particular, are needed, he said.
The government is making arrangements to extend the state of emergency for up to another month in Tokyo and other areas continuing to see a high number of infections, sources familiar with the matter have said.
The final decision on whether to extend the current virus emergency covering 11 of Japan’s 47 prefectures beyond the original end date of Feb. 7 will be made this week, but a source close to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said an extension would be inevitable for eight of the 11 prefectures.
The eight are Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka prefectures.
The state of emergency, which was first declared for Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures on Jan. 7 and expanded to seven other areas six days later, entails urging the public to refrain from going outside unnecessarily and asking restaurants and bars to shorten their opening hours.
The government will consider lifting the emergency in Tochigi Prefecture, as it has seen a sufficient drop in new infections, the sources said.
However, it will examine whether to add Okinawa Prefecture — where the virus has continued to spread on remote islands — to the areas subject to the virus emergency, they said.
On Miyako Island, five nurses dispatched from the Ground Self-Defense Force at the request of Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki began working Sunday at a nursing care facility where cluster infections have occurred. The nurses are scheduled to work there until Feb. 13.
The facility has so far confirmed 40 COVID-19 cases among its residents and staff.
The government will consult with health experts this week to assess whether the number of coronavirus cases in the two remaining prefectures — Aichi and Gifu — has fallen enough for the emergency to be lifted.
Suga said Saturday that he needs to “observe the situation a little more” before making a decision, according to officials who met with him. The emergency could remain in place for another three weeks to one month, the sources said.
In order to lift the virus emergency, the situation must improve from Stage 4, the worst level on the government’s four-point scale.
The stages are based on six key indicators, including the weekly number of infections per 100,000 people and the percentage of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients currently available.
Eight prefectures, including Tokyo, Kanagawa and Osaka, remain at Stage 4 for the weekly number of infections per 100,000 people as of Saturday.
Tokyo has seen four-digit increases in infections almost every day since entering January, but the count has shown a downward trend in recent days.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of Japan’s coronavirus response, told a news conference Friday that he intends to hold a meeting of an advisory panel of health experts “at an appropriate time.” The government will decide on the emergency extension based on their advice.
The panel meeting could be held either Tuesday or Thursday, according to the sources.
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