A growing number of people in the Suga administration and Japan’s ruling party believe the state of emergency will have to be extended for areas that still have a high number of coronavirus cases, Kyodo reports sources as saying.

The state of emergency, which entails urging the public to refrain from going outside unnecessarily and asking restaurants and bars to shorten their opening hours, could remain in place until the end of February, the sources said.

While new cases appear to be dropping week-on-week, a surge in the admission of COVID-19 patients to intensive care units at hospitals across Japan is complicating the provision of care to other seriously ill patients, some of which are not receiving the medical attention they need, reports Osamu Tsukimori.

People dine at a restaurant in Tokyo on Friday. | AFP-JIJI
People dine at a restaurant in Tokyo on Friday. | AFP-JIJI

To get a better handle on the true extent of infections in urban areas, random mass testing will start as early as March in Tokyo, Osaka and other cities with high numbers of daily cases, government sources say. Around mid-March, tickets for COVID-19 vaccinations will be sent to 36 million people aged 65 or older, enabling them to get their free shots, the health ministry says, if all goes to plan.

Meanwhile, European Union governments plan to remove Japan from their list of countries whose residents should be allowed to visit the bloc during the current phase of the pandemic, according to an EU official familiar with the matter.

Tuesday’s (and Monday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (50 or over): Tokyo 1,024 (618), Kanagawa 394 (351), Osaka 343 (273), Chiba 340 (291), Saitama 253 (251), Aichi 215 (89), Fukuoka 155 (154), Hyogo 153 (80), Kyoto 113 (91), Hokkaido 106 (88), Okinawa 84 (41), Gifu 61 (39). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker