Kishida says COVID state of emergency in Tokyo not being considered — for now

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Monday he is not considering declaring a virus state of emergency for Tokyo over a recent spike in COVID-19 cases amid the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant.

His remarks came amid pressure on the government to again place Tokyo under a state of emergency, with the capital reporting 11,751 daily coronavirus cases the same day, topping 10,000 for the seventh consecutive day. The occupancy rate for designated COVID-19 hospital beds stood at 49.2%, approaching the 50% threshold for the metropolitan government to consider requesting a state of emergency to strengthen anti-coronavirus measures.

“A quasi-state of emergency has already started, and our basic thinking is that we will confirm its effect, see how the situation develops and work closely with municipalities before comprehensively making a decision,” Kishida told reporters.

“At least at this moment, the government is not considering declaring a state of emergency,” he added.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno also suggested the government is wary of declaring a state of emergency.

“As it accompanies strong restrictions on private rights and has a major social and economic impact, the government should judge carefully,” Matsuno said at a regular news conference, adding that such a declaration is not automatic when a certain benchmark is met.

Currently, Tokyo and 33 areas among the country’s 47 prefectures have been placed under a quasi-state of emergency that allows local authorities to ask restaurants and bars to shorten their business hours and limit or stop the serving of alcohol.

While a state of emergency does not entail a hard lockdown as seen in other countries, economic activity could be further limited as it imposes tougher restrictions on commercial facilities such as department stores, shopping malls and amusement parks.

Under a state of emergency, spectators may also be banned from large events such as sports games and concerts.

On Sunday, 78,127 new cases were reported across the nation, with the figure exceeding 70,000 for the fifth straight day. Seriously ill coronavirus patients numbered 767, up by 33 from Saturday, while 31 people with COVID-19 were confirmed dead.

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