Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga yesterday told a meeting of ruling party executives that he would declare a state of emergency for the three western prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo to stem the spread of COVID-19, Kyodo news reported.
Responding to pressure from Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures in eastern Japan, Suga last week declared a one-month state of emergency for that region until Feb. 7.
However, the number of coronavirus cases has also climbed in the west, prompting Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo to also seek a state of emergency. The government is finalizing plans to do so today, and could also consider adding the central prefectures of Aichi — home to Toyota Motor Corp — and Gifu, Kyodo reported, citing government sources.
Adding those five prefectures would mean a state of emergency for about half of Japan’s population of 126 million people.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not confirm the report, saying only that the government would “swiftly” consider the measures for the Osaka area.
Suga has been criticized for what many said was a slow, confusing and piecemeal response to the COVID-19 pandemic as coronavirus infections hover near record highs.
A Kyodo survey published on Sunday showed about 79 percent saying Suga’s decision to call the state of emergency for Tokyo came too late.
The Japanese government is also asking residents of the Tokyo area to stay in as much as possible, and for bars and restaurants to close by 8pm.
“Please refrain from going out not only at night, but also during the day,” Japanese Minister of Economy Yasutoshi Nishimura wrote on Twitter, noting that there had been no decrease in daytime outings over the three-day weekend even under the state of emergency.
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