As expected, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Friday that Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures will remain under a state of emergency.

The move is ostensibly aimed at easing burdens on hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients, but for Suga, it’s also about wresting the media spotlight back from Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who has appeared to be controlling the narrative on extending the emergency, writes Satoshi Sugiyama.

While restrictions are supposed to last two more weeks, they could be extended again. Infectious disease experts are especially concerned about an increase in untraceable cases, while foot traffic in key areas of Tokyo and other big cities under the emergency suggests that many people are no longer feeling a sense of crisis.

COVID-19: Japan extends state of emergency in greater Tokyo area | CNA
COVID-19: Japan extends state of emergency in greater Tokyo area | CNA

Local governments, meanwhile, are worried about the lack of information they are receiving from Tokyo about how the vaccine rollout will take place, not to mention how long it might take to inoculate their most vulnerable groups, particularly the huge ranks of elderly people.

Vaccine candidates are all cued up for approval, with Takeda officially applying for the government OK for Moderna’s vaccine on Friday, while AstraZeneca sought the green light about a month ago. But don’t wait up: Health minister Norihisa Tamura says the next OK could come in May.

Sunday’s (and last Sunday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (30 or over): Tokyo 237 (329), Saitama 123 (97), Kanagawa 119 (131), Chiba 113 (132), Hokkaido 84 (27), Osaka 76 (54), Hyogo 41 (26), Fukuoka 35 (23), Miyagi 32 (14). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker