The government recommended extending by two weeks its virus state of emergency for the Tokyo region set to expire Sunday, trying to maintain a declining trend in infections as it looks to host the Olympics in about four months.
The move was announced early Friday by the government’s point man for virus management, economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura. It came after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga strongly indicated Wednesday that he was aiming to extend the nearly two-month measure, saying it was “an extremely important time for preventing infections.”
Nishimura said the extension for Tokyo and three adjacent prefectures will help to deal with mutant strains and prevent a fresh wave of infections from emerging. He also said strain on the medical system is a reason for the extension.
Under the emergency, local governments have instructed bars and restaurants to close at 8 p.m., and advised people to avoid going out unnecessarily. The measures, while limited, have helped much of the country bring infections under control, but have proved damaging for many retail and restaurant businesses.
Suga has tried to move the economy forward while keeping cases in check to appease a public that opinion surveys show sees him as being slow in imposing measures to stem infections. He has also seen his support rate fall among many who have seen him putting the economy ahead of public health concerns.
Suppressing activity for a little longer won’t add too much extra damage to an economy already showing some signs of recovery, even under existing restrictions, economists said. At the same time, ensuring there is no rebound in virus infections will help maintain the case for staging the Olympics set to start in July, they added.
A two-week extension would mean a ¥360 billion negative hit, which would push gross domestic product down by 0.05 percentage point, according to Junichi Makino, chief economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.
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