Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government put Tokyo under its fourth COVID-19 state of emergency on Monday in an effort to contain a resurgence in coronavirus infections.
With the measure, to last until Aug. 22 — a period that will cover the duration of the Tokyo Olympics — the government aims to curb the movements of people during the global sports event, as well as the summer vacation period including Japan’s Bon holiday in mid-August.
The Summer Games, which will open July 23 and end Aug. 8, will be held behind closed doors at almost all venues.
With the fresh emergency in place, some people voiced fear over an increase in infections in the country, as well as dissatisfaction toward the government’s pandemic response.
“It’s natural to have the games with no spectators, but I believe it would surely increase the flow of people. I’m worried that it could lead to a further rise in the number of infections,” said Toshihiro Numata, a 60-year-old worker in the city of Yokohama.
A woman in her 50s from Tokyo’s Minato Ward expressed frustration over the government’s repeated declaration of COVID-19 emergencies in the capital, saying, “I don’t see any point in having the same measure (of emergency) being repeated. Also, I think there is not enough explanation from the government about its purpose.”
Besides Tokyo, a COVID-19 state of emergency in Okinawa Prefecture as well as a quasi-state of emergency in Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa and Osaka prefectures, which had been set to expire at midnight Sunday, were extended to Aug. 22.
“I want the government to take more short-term measures such as quickly delivering the vaccines,” said Toru Kamada, a resident of the city of Yao, in Osaka Prefecture.
The country’s vaccination rate lags far behind other developed nations and its recent decision to halt company applications for workplace vaccinations has drawn fire.
The government announced the halt in late June due to concerns that it will be unable to distribute doses quickly enough, with no timeline set for when applications will again be accepted.
The quasi-emergency in five other prefectures — Hokkaido, Aichi, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka — expired at midnight Sunday as scheduled.
Compared to a full-blown state of emergency, the quasi-emergency measure carries fewer restrictions on business activity and targets high-risk areas rather than entire prefectures.
In areas under the state of emergency, food service establishments are prohibited from serving alcohol and are required to close by 8 p.m.
Under the quasi-emergency, serving alcohol is banned in principle, but some establishments may be allowed to serve alcohol up to 7 p.m., subject to the local governor’s approval, with proper anti-virus measures in place.
Japan’s major carriers Japan Airlines Corp. and All Nippon Airways Co. said they have stopped serving alcohol at their respective lounges at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.
The two airlines, however, continue to serve liquor at their lounges in Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture and Osaka’s Kansai International Airport from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
In Tokyo, major commercial facilities are obliged to close by 8 p.m. Attendance at large events is capped at 5,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is fewer.
The capital entered into its first COVID-19 state of emergency in April 2020 and a second emergency in January this year.
Suga declared a third emergency for Tokyo in April, which had been initially scheduled to last about two weeks but was extended until June 20.
The emergency was eased to a semi-emergency for Tokyo on June 21 but it went back to the fourth emergency after just about three weeks due to the recent rebound in infections.
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