Thursday, September 16, 2021


State of emergency takes effect in 7 more of Japan’s prefectures

The government declared a state of emergency for seven prefectures on Friday amid a surge of novel coronavirus infections, while an additional 10 prefectures were placed under emergency-level priority measures.



The state of emergency, which was already in place for six prefectures including Tokyo, has now expanded to cover 13 prefectures with the additions of Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka. The government also newly added 10 prefectures, including Miyagi and Kagoshima, to the list of areas under priority measures, bringing the total number of prefectures to 16. Both the state of emergency and the priority measures are currently scheduled to last through Sept. 12.

In the areas subject to the state of emergency and priority measures, the governors of the prefectures issued requests for large-scale commercial facilities of more than 1,000 square meters to restrict the entry of customers and visitors.

The Matsuzakaya Shizuoka department store in Shizuoka City has now limited the entry of customers to about half the number present when the store is considered crowded. The store also restricts the entry to the basement food section when the number of customers there reaches a certain level.

The store counts the number of customers entering with sensors at each entrance, and monitors display the number of customers present in real time. The store hopes displaying such figures will help customers avoid congestion.

“I’ve had two vaccine doses, but I’m worried about [shopping] during crowded hours. So I feel safer if there is such a monitor,” said a 72-year-old woman who was shopping at the store.

In Osaka Prefecture, which was already under a state of emergency, the Hanshin Department Store’s Umeda main store in Osaka City, where a cluster of infection had occurred among employees, reopened its food section on Friday with the number of customers in the section limited to about half of ordinary levels. The food section currently has only one entrance and customers cannot enter the section directly from other floors. Employees working in the food section are also required to take PCR tests once every two weeks.

In Kagoshima Prefecture, which was placed under priority measures for the first time, the prefectural government requested large-scale facilities in Kagoshima City and two other cities to shorten business hours.

As the spread of infections continues unabated, the main focus of the strengthened measures against COVID-19 is to curb the flow of people. The central government has asked companies to reduce the number of people commuting to work by 70%. However, the spread of telework appears to be tepid.

“I think only about 10% of employees are teleworking,” a 34-year-old man, who commutes from Ibaraki Prefecture to Tokyo, said of his company.

According to Tsukuba Station in Ibaraki Prefecture, which is connected to central Tokyo by the Tsukuba Express rail line, the number of passengers dropped by 30% in the first wave of infections in spring last year. However, there have been no significant changes since then.

“I don’t see much change from the day before,” Tatsuya Suzuki, the assistant stationmaster, said Friday morning.

The Yomiuri Shimbun analyzed data from NTT Docomo, Inc.’s Mobile Spatial Statistics to compare foot traffic at 7 a.m. on Friday with the figure from Aug. 6, two weeks earlier. The analysis showed that the seven prefectures newly placed under the state of emergency all saw the number of people at major stations drop, but the decrease was less than 10%.

In eastern Japan, the number of people at Mito and Tsukuba stations in Ibaraki Prefecture fell by 4.7% and 1.2%, respectively. In Tochigi Prefecture, Utsunomiya Station saw a 9.2% decrease. In Gunma Prefecture, the figure fell at Maebashi Station by 7.1% and at Takasaki Station by 6.3%. In Shizuoka Prefecture, the declines were 8.8% at Shizuoka Station and 6.4% at Hamamatsu Station.

Published : August 21, 2021

By : The Japan News/ANN