Tokyo, July 8, 2021 – The Japanese government decided on Thursday to place Tokyo under a state of emergency as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga tries to pull off hosting the Olympics without sparking a Covid-19 crisis amid a steady rise in infections in the capital and surrounding areas.
Tokyo thus joins Okinawa, the southernmost island prefecture that has been under a state of emergency since May 23.
The move comes less than three weeks after Tokyo emerged from a state of emergency, on June 20, and marks the fourth time the capital falls under a Covid emergency decree since April 2020.
The metropolis’ plight also demonstrates the challenges of containing the mutating virus while also keeping the economy going, a battle that had been expected to grow easier now that Japan has accelerated its vaccine rollout.
Suga said Thursday that the government will “make every effort to implement infection control measures and accelerate its vaccine campaign”.
He stressed that progress has been made on inoculations, saying that a total of 54 million jabs have been administered with around 70% of elderly and around 30% of all citizens having received their first vaccine shot.
Tokyo and its three surrounding prefectures as well as the major metropolitan regions of Osaka, Aichi, Kyoto and Fukuoka on June 21 were put under quasi emergencies that are to run through Sunday. Among the quasi-emergency restrictions is a ban on restaurants and bars serving alcohol after 7pm.
The state of emergency will be reinstated only in Tokyo. For the three surrounding prefectures — Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa — as well as Osaka, the quasi-emergency restrictions will be extended through Aug 22.
The prefectures of Aichi, Kyoto, Hyogo, Fukuoka and Hokkaido will have the restrictions lifted.
Under the full state of emergency, establishments will be asked to suspend all alcohol sales. Curbs will be tightened even in areas under the quasi-emergency, with restaurants and bars asked to stop all alcohol sales regardless of time.
In addition, all restaurants must close by 8pm.
Governors of prefectures under a full state of emergency are authorized to order businesses to reduce their hours or not open at all.
Fines of up to ¥300,000 can be levied upon violators. Operators that comply with the rules will be given cash compensation.
The Olympics are due to start on July 23 and run through Aug 8. Tokyo will be under a full state of emergency the entire time.
Nevertheless, decisions on whether to allow spectators at Olympic venues, and how many, will be made during a meeting involving officials from the Tokyo metropolitan government, the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese organizing committee.
The meeting is imminent. – AP