Japan declares state of emergency to contain COVID-19 increase, 3 months before the Olympics
TOKYO (AP) – Japan on Friday declared a state of emergency to stem the rapid resurgence of the coronavirus, the third since the start of the pandemic. The measures in parts of Japan, including Tokyo, have failed to contain infections caused by a new, more contagious variant of the virus.
Here is a look at how the state of emergency differs from previous ones, what measures are included and whether Japan can control infections before the Tokyo Olympics in July.
HOW BAD IS THE SITUATION OF JAPAN?
Japan, with about 550,000 cases and less than 10,000 deaths, is better off than most of the world, although it is not as good when compared to other places in Asia. It did not impose any rigid blockade. Infections declined briefly in March, but have since increased to more than five times, exceeding 5,000 on Wednesday. Experts have warned that a new variant of the virus, previously detected in Britain, is spreading rapidly among young people in offices and classrooms, causing more serious cases, overloading hospitals and interrupting regular medical care. Tests remain insufficient, despite calls for increased testing for new variants in nursing homes and for young people.
WHO IS AFFECTED?
The latest state of emergency covers Tokyo and the western metropolises of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, home to about a quarter of the Japanese population of 126 million. The 17-day emergency begins on Sunday and lasts until May 11, just after the end of Japan’s “golden week” holidays, to discourage travel. The planned end, ahead of the planned visit to Japan by the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, in mid-May, sparked criticism that the government is putting the Olympic calendar above people’s health.
WHAT CAN AN EMERGENCY STATE DO?
Emergency measures were toughened by a revised law in February, and the state of emergency now allows provincial governors in the areas to issue binding orders for companies to shorten or close in exchange for daily compensation of up to 200,000 yen ( $ 1,850), imposing fines of up to 300,000 yen ($ 2,780) on offenders.
WHAT WILL CHANGE WITH PREVIOUS MEASURES?
Department stores, shopping malls, theme parks, bars and restaurants serving alcoholic beverages, as well as theaters and museums, will be closed. Restaurants that do not offer alcoholic beverages and public transportation services should end early. Groceries and schools will remain open, but universities must return to online classes. The third emergency is similar to the first one a year ago and more difficult than a second emergency in January, limited to 8 pm. closing orders for bars and restaurants.
WILL THE PUBLIC COMPLY?
Residents are asked to avoid non-essential tours, work from home and wear masks and other safety measures, but these are not mandatory requests. Experts worry whether requests will be granted, as many people are increasingly tired of restrictions and less cooperative, and have been ignoring calls for social detachment in Tokyo, Osaka and other areas since the beginning of this month.
HOW DOES EMERGENCY AFFECT OLYMPICS?
The organizers of the Tokyo Olympics and the government repeated their determination to hold the event from July 23 to August. 8 games, while the majority of the public supports its cancellation or subsequent postponement. The increase in cases caused a redirection of the Olympic torch relay after it started on March 25 in Fukushima. Suga said on Friday that Japan has no choice but to follow the IOC’s decision to hold the games and that Japan will do its best to ensure security. “The IOC has the authority to decide and has already decided to host the Tokyo Olympics,” he said.
AND THE JAPAN VACCINES?
Japan’s vaccination campaign is lagging behind many countries, with imported vaccines in short supply. Japan’s attempts to develop its own vaccines are still in the early stages. Inoculations started in mid-February and covered only about 1% of Japanese people. The rapid increase in new patients in hospitals has raised concerns about staff shortages and the slowdown in vaccinations. Some officials mentioned that the Games were held without an audience or canceled in the worst case. Organizers postponed the decision on what to do with fans until June.