After days of record-setting coronavirus tallies in Tokyo, the city’s governor on Saturday asked Japan’s central government to declare a national state of emergency for the first time since April.
Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, met on Saturday afternoon with Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s economic minister, to request that the government do so as part of a broader effort to urge residents to stay home as much as possible.
The request came as Tokyo reported that its medical system was coming under strain. The governors of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa, suburban regions outside Tokyo, joined Tokyo in making the request.
Mr. Nishimura said the government still needed to consult with experts before making a declaration, but acknowledged that the rapid growth in infections had led to a “severe situation.”
If a state of emergency is declared, it would not be a formal lockdown and would mostly depend on voluntary compliance by businesses and residents.
Japan has recorded a total of 238,012 Covid-19 cases and 3,514 deaths. Tokyo reported a record 1,337 new infections on Thursday, and the nation has reported a daily average of nearly 3,000 cases over the past week.
Japan has also detected cases of the more transmissible variant of the virus that first emerged in England, and it closed its borders to new foreign travelers late last month.
Public health experts have expressed concern as Japan added 100,000 new cases in less than six weeks, after taking nearly eight months to get to its first 100,000 cases. Deaths have also been rising rapidly, with the total number having doubled in the past two months.
“If we don’t do anything but keep economic and social activities, there is a possibility that we will have a rapid increase” in cases, Shigeru Omi, the chairman of the government’s coronavirus panel of experts, told reporters last week.
He said that residents were growing tired of avoiding the kinds of activities or close quarters where the virus can easily spread, and that clusters had been detected in “workplaces, restaurants, among foreigners and the elderly.”
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