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international

[Japan] Govt extends emergency to March 7


Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Tuesday evening that the state of emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic will be extended by a month to March 7 for 10 prefectures.

This represents all the prefectures currently under a state of emergency except for Tochigi Prefecture.

If the government fails to contain the spread of the coronavirus by the new deadline, it will bode ill for the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo this summer. Suga will be working on infection control with his back to the wall for the next month.

When Suga declared the state of emergency on Jan. 7, he made a point of stating, “We will definitely improve the situation in a month.” Suga clearly does not want to extend the state of emergency multiple times.

On Jan. 7, the daily number of newly infected people in Tokyo rose to a record 2,447. In contrast, the number was only 393, or about one-sixth of that, on Monday, when the government decided to extend the state of emergency.

Suga told people around him that the impact of the state of emergency had become clear, and he was considering extending it on a smaller scale. There was a proposal within the government to add Aichi and Gifu prefectures to the list of prefectures where the state of emergency will be lifted.

However, experts strongly cautioned that lifting the state of emergency would ease the mood of self-restraint and cause a rebound in the number of infections.

In response to the spike in infections, Suga shifted his focus from reviving the economy to curbing the virus. In the end, he chose what a government official called “the most prudent measure” of only lifting the state of emergency in Tochigi Prefecture.

The Olympic torch relay will begin in Japan in March, and some in the ruling party are saying that canceling the Games will cause a political crisis. To avoid another postponement or cancellation of the Games, it is necessary to find a way to lift the state of emergency by the extended deadline of March 7.

After March, there will be many events that will be milestones for people, such as graduation and entrance ceremonies. If the state of emergency is extended again at such a time, the government’s response to the novel coronavirus will inevitably be criticized by the public. Suga seems to have decided that playing things safe is in his best interest.

Revision of the laws on infectious diseases, which include penalties for people who do not comply with the government’s orders to take steps to prevent infections, are expected to come into effect on Feb. 13. Suga hopes the revisions will help contain the virus. He also expects the public’s anxiety to subside when vaccinations for medical personnel begin in late February.

Suga continues to hope to lift the state of emergency before the deadline, if the infection situation improves sufficiently in relevant areas. The first state of emergency declared last spring was ultimately lifted in stages before the deadline. However, infections spread easily in winter and the hurdles set by experts for lifting the declaration are high.

Shigeru Omi, the head of the government’s novel coronavirus task force, said Monday, “It is necessary to lift the state of emergency in such a way that infections can be maintained at a relatively low level afterward.”

Published : February 03, 2021