Japan expands virus emergency, tightens border restrictions

  • Japan expands virus emergency, tightens border restrictions

Japan expands virus emergency, tightens border restrictions

Suga's announcement comes less than a week after he declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three nearby prefectures. Japan's coronavirus cases topped 300,000 on Wednesday while the death toll reached 4,187, NHK said.

The state of emergency, Japan's first since April, began first with the greater Tokyo area covered under it.

The newly declared prefectures, also including Tochigi to the north of Tokyo, Gifu in central Japan, Hyogo and Kyoto in the west, and Fukuoka to the southwest, will remain in the status through February 7.

Political analyst Atsuo Ito said he saw two major problems with Mr Suga's response to the pandemic: that it was incremental and slow, and that he was a poor communicator despite having been the top government spokesman in his previous role as chief cabinet secretary. Both states of emergency were declared only after local leaders had pleaded with him to do so. The government has warned it will disclose the names of businesses that do not cooperate.

Unlike the earlier seven-week emergency Japan had in April and May past year, schools, gyms, theaters and shops will stay open.

Suga has faced criticism for not taking strong enough government action earlier in the outbreak.

Among the most controversial moves has been a scheme that subsidised local tourism, encouraging millions to travel domestically.

The 2020 Olympic Games originally slated for July of past year due to the coronavirus pandemic are now on target to begin on July 23rd.

Though less seriously hit by the pandemic than many other countries, Japan has been unable to rein in the virus.

Although - unlike most places in the world - the law does not now allow authorities to enforce these requests, the government is planning legislation to fine businesses that do not comply.

As for additional steps the government might take in the event that the current measures fail to curb the spread of the virus, Suga did not provide any details, merely reiterating the current measures that are being implemented.

Japan Medical Association President Toshio Nakagawa said at a news conference Wednesday that medical systems in the country have been collapsing, with regular daily treatment at many hospitals compromised due to the growing burden of coronavirus patients.

Japan's health ministry announced it had detected the variant in four travellers from Brazil's Amazonas state, which had 12 mutations - including one also found in highly infectious variants discovered in England and South Africa.