Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Monday that the government is now considering declaring a state of emergency in parts of the country, after data showed countermeasures had failed to stop the novel coronavirus from spreading further during the New Year’s holidays, writes Ryusei Takahashi.

While Suga has yet to clarify when, where or for how long the declaration would take effect, media reports speculate the order could be handed down this week and target Tokyo and the prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama. The capital reported 884 new COVID-19 infections on Monday, a record for that day of the week, and a new high of 108 severe cases.

Retailers and restaurant operators are having a hard time figuring out how to respond to the recent rapid spread of the virus after the governors of the four Kanto-area prefectures asked the central government Saturday to declare an emergency.

Japan weighs state of emergency amid ‘severe’ COVID-19 surge | AL JAZEERA ENGLISH
Japan weighs state of emergency amid ‘severe’ COVID-19 surge | AL JAZEERA ENGLISH

Bankruptcies in Japan’s restaurant industry are likely to have hit an all-time high in 2020, according to a recent survey. In the sector, bankruptcies of companies with debts of at least ¥10 million from January to November stood at 792, an increase of 8% compared with the same period last year and just eight shy of the record of 800 set in 2011 — with a month still to go.

The pandemic is hurting mom-and-pop restaurants particularly badly, despite evidence the government’s massive effort to stave off bankruptcies is working in other sectors of the economy, Reuters reports. Its journalists witnessed the closure, after 15 years, of a ramen joint in a business district of Tokyo where seven similar places had already given up the ghost.

Monday’s (and Sunday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (30 or over): Tokyo 884 (816), Kanagawa 412 (365), Osaka 268 (253), Saitama 243 (205), Chiba 195 (225), Aichi 152 (185), Fukuoka 128 (105), Hyogo 118 (98), Hokkaido 93 (68), Kyoto 76 (89), Tochigi 69 (72), Gifu 52 (58), Hiroshima 47 (72), Gunma 37 (31), Shiga 37 (38), Okinawa 36 (27), Kumamoto 34 (22), Shizuoka 34 (29), Okayama 33 (27), Ibaraki 32 (52), Miyazaki 32 (30). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker