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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday declared a second, albeit less comprehensive, state of emergency in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures to contain the fast-spreading coronavirus, which has stretched parts of Japan’s health care system to breaking point, writes Ryusei Takahashi.

But what does it really mean? The emergency declaration will hand power to local governments to urge residents to stay home and order some businesses to close or limit operations, but it offers little in the way of enforcement.

On the streets, people in the affected areas expressed anxiety to reporters Thursday about how their lives and businesses will be impacted by the declaration, laced with a fair amount of skepticism over what the emergency will achieve in terms of reducing infections.

State of emergency in Tokyo over COVID-19 crisis | AL JAZEERA ENGLISH
State of emergency in Tokyo over COVID-19 crisis | AL JAZEERA ENGLISH

The nation logged over 7,500 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday, far exceeding its previous day’s record of just over 6,000. In Tokyo, the daily number of new cases soared to 2,447 — 50% higher than the record set just a day earlier.

Daily counts also hit new highs in the three prefectures included along with Tokyo in the new state of emergency, as well as in 16 other prefectures. The governors of Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Aichi have said they may soon call on the central government to place their prefectures under the state of emergency.

Thursday’s (and Wednesday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (50 or over): Tokyo 2,447 (1,591), Kanagawa 679 (591), Osaka 607 (560), Saitama 460 (394), Chiba 450 (311), Aichi 431 (364), Fukuoka 388 (316), Hyogo 284 (248), Hokkaido 161 (115), Kyoto 143 (119), Tochigi 130 (132), Miyazaki 105 (80), Hiroshima 94 (76), Gifu 91 (102), Ibaraki 90 (71), Gunma 83 (59), Shizuoka 82 (87), Nagano 79 (50), Miyagi 75 (52), Okayama 66 (59), Okinawa 66 (72), Kumamoto 63 (69), Nagasaki 58 (43), Shiga 53 (50). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker

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