With a state of emergency looming, Japan on Tuesday recorded new highs for COVID-19 infections, deaths related to the disease and the number of severe cases. The nationwide tally of new cases was 4,913, while the single-day death toll reached 76. Tokyo confirmed 1,278 new infections, while three surrounding prefectures all broke records, with Kanagawa reporting 622 cases.

Daily cases have increased more than tenfold since the last time a state of emergency was declared, back in April. Eight months on, it’s unclear if the public will be as compliant this time, or if the government has the financial strength to support firms that voluntarily close, writes Ryusei Takahashi.

Reactions to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s suggestion Monday that the government may soon declare an emergency in Tokyo and its neighboring prefectures have been mixed, Kyodo reports. Opposition parties have criticized the decision as too little, too late, while small businesses especially are worried for their future.

Japan to declare state of emergency for greater Tokyo area | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN
Japan to declare state of emergency for greater Tokyo area | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN

The weather isn’t helping matters. For small businesses such as restaurants and shops, the winter months are proving to be a challenge as owners scramble to keep their premises ventilated — a vital step in reducing the risk of indoor transmission — without leaving their customers freezing cold, as Alex Martin reports.

Meanwhile, sumo fans looking forward to a welcome distraction from the COVID-19 gloom with the upcoming New Year’s basho were dealt a blow by news that yokozuna Hakuho has tested positive for the coronavirus. Hakuho was gearing up for a comeback after missing the last few tournaments due to a knee injury.

Tuesday’s (and Monday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (40 or over): Tokyo 1278 (884), Kanagawa 622 (412), Osaka 394 (268), Saitama 369 (243), Aichi 273 (152), Chiba 261 (195), Hyogo 222 (118), Fukuoka 187 (128), Tochigi 111 (69), Kyoto 102 (76), Gifu 98 (52), Hokkaido 79 (93), Hiroshima 77 (47), Ibaraki 67 (32), Kumamoto 64 (34), Nagasaki 55 (24), Okinawa 53 (36), Okayama 51 (33), Gunma 44 (37), Nagano 44 (18). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker