Tokyo saw nearly 40,000 new coronavirus cases in January, more than double the previous monthly record set in December, metropolitan government figures showed Sunday. But in a positive sign, the capital finished the month with a daily total of 633 new cases — the lowest for a Sunday since Dec. 20.

As Matt Aizawa shows in a commentary, Japan has seen a series of spikes in new cases around two weeks after holidays, with the most recent coming after the new year break. With two long weekends coming up this month, authorities would do well to keep the current lockdown in place through February, counsels Aizawa.

Yet even with the emergency in effect, only around 37% of firms in the 11 prefectures under the order have met the government’s target of cutting commuters by 70% to prevent the spread of the virus, a survey shows. The proportion of the workforce doing telework fell to 22% in mid-January from 31.5 % in May last year, when the country was under the first emergency.

Japanese react to state of emergency | STREET INTERVIEW
Japanese react to state of emergency | STREET INTERVIEW | ASIAN BOSS

As an increasing number of COVID-19 patients are told to recover at home due to a shortage of hospital beds, preventing the virus from spreading within households has also become a major challenge. In Tokyo, about 50% of people who tested positive between Jan. 4 and 17, and whose transmission routes were determined, were infected by family members, Kyodo reports.

Moves to give the law teeth to penalize those who defy measures meant to stem the spread, meanwhile, have resulted in an unusual compromise between ruling and opposition parties. The deal to drop criminal penalties reflects Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s desperation to curb the spread of the virus and stamp out criticism over his handling of the pandemic, Satoshi Sugiyama reports.

Sunday’s (and the previous Sunday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (50 or over): Tokyo 633 (986), Kanagawa 390 (554), Saitama 243 (285), Osaka 214 (421), Chiba 212 (328), Fukuoka 127 (224), Aichi 121 (164), Hyogo 111 (178), Hokkaido 104 (94), Kyoto 76 (115), Ibaraki 63 (46), Gunma 61 (22). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker