Japan declares a state of emergency in three other prefectures hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said on Friday, to a surprise measure that reflects growing concern over the spread of the coronavirus.
The latest statement comes as Japan grapples with a surge of a more infectious strain of the virus just 10 weeks before the start of the Tokyo Olympics on July 23.
Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima will join Tokyo, Osaka and four other prefectures under a state of emergency on Sunday until May 31, said Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, also in charge of countermeasures against viruses.
For reasons of economy, the government had initially proposed a declaration of “quasi-emergency” more targeted for five additional prefectures.
“Experts told us that a strong message must be sent to the public, given the critical situation with the mutant strains,” Nishimura told parliament, explaining the decision.
The least restrictive measures will be extended to three prefectures as planned.
The latest measures put 19 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, which are home to around 70% of the population, under restrictions such as the 8 p.m. restaurant closure deadline and a ban on alcohol in most bars and restaurants. .
The Dai-ichi Life Research Institute has estimated that a state of emergency in nine prefectures could reduce gross domestic product by about 1 trillion yen ($ 9.1 billion) and cut 57,000 jobs over the next few months. .
A Reuters poll on Friday showed the economy would grow much slower than expected this quarter, hampered by emergency brakes. Read more
Experts say medical resources are being pushed to the brink, while Japan’s inoculation campaign has been the slowest among advanced countries, with just 3% of the population vaccinated, according to Reuters data.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s popularity has been affected by what many see as an inadequate antivirus response from his government. A new poll by Jiji News put the firm’s approval rating at 32.2%, down 4.4 points from the previous survey.
Suga will hold a press conference at 8:00 p.m. (11:00 GMT).
The northern island prefecture of Hokkaido, which is slated to host the marathon, reported a record 712 cases on Thursday. The number of infections in Japan stands at around 656,000, with 11,161 deaths, and Tokyo, the capital, reported 854 new cases on Friday.
The state of emergency in Tokyo and elsewhere is said to last this month, leaving less than two months before the Olympics.
Public opposition to the Summer Games, already postponed for a year from 2020 due to the global pandemic, has persisted.
A change.org petition for the cancellation of the Olympics has collected more than 350,000 signatures in just nine days, a record pace for the Japanese version of the forum, said the campaign organizer.
It was submitted to the heads of the Olympic and Paralympic committees, as well as to the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike. Read more
In a rare and blunt expression of concern from a high profile businessman, SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T) Managing Director Masayoshi Son said he was “scared” to host the Games. , fearing both Japan and the countries that send athletes.
Nishimura reiterated the government’s position that it will do everything possible to contain the pandemic so that it can hold a “safe and secure” Games.
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(Global Immunization Monitoring: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/vaccination-rollout-and-access/)
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