"This gives us more time to access the situation," says Prime Minister Suga
Yoshihide Suga on March 6 (via NHK)
While the State of Emergency in the rest of Japan was lifted early a week ago, Greater Tokyo (which includes the Tokyo Metropolis, Kanagawa Prefecture, Chiba Prefecture, and Saitama Prefecture) remained until the already extended deadline of March 7. But, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced tonight that due to the current situation in the area, and at the request of the governors and medical organizations, the State of Emergency to battle the coronavirus infection will continue on in the region until at least March 21.
One of the major reasons for the extension is due to the increase of cases on a 7-day average in the region over the last week compared to February 19 and 26, as well as the bed occupancy rate hovering around 50% for three of the four prefectures. One of the main indicators that Suga has outlined for the State of Emergency declaration to be lifted, prefectures have to be in Stage 2 of the four-stage medical alert system, one of the key factors of that is for bed occupancy rates to be under 20% in the prefecture.
Another major worry comes from the movement of people at this time of year. The spring trees have started blossoming earlier than usual in the Greater Tokyo Area, with the sakura trees expected to start blooming on March 15. Graduation parties, as well as welcome parties for new jobs, are very common in March as it's the end of the school year. All of these factors caused the first State of Emergency in Japan in 2020, so the prefectural governors don't want to see a spike just as they're trying to re-open.
"Stay Home" sign in Akihabara Station (Photo: Daryl Harding)
Even though the State of Emergency is only being declared for two more weeks, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has requested businesses to keep closing early, though has moved the requested closing time from 8 PM to 9 PM. Businesses will be rewarded with a payment of 60,000 yen (US$554) for compiling during the State of Emergency, and then 40,000 yen (US$369) after it has been lifted.
On March 6 in Japan, the Greater Tokyo Area of Tokyo Metropolis, Kanagawa Prefecture, Chiba Prefecture, and Saitama Prefecture recorded 659 new cases of COVID-19, with a majority of them found in retirement homes and among university students going out to party at the end of the year.
Thumbnail and header image via NHK
If you or someone you know is living in Japan, coronavirus-based English resources are available at NHK World Japan.
Daryl Harding is a Japan Correspondent for Crunchyroll News. He also runs a YouTube channel about Japan stuff called TheDoctorDazza, tweets at @DoctorDazza, and posts photos of his travels on Instagram.