Japan’s Suga Sets Sunday End for Tokyo Area Virus Emergency
(Bloomberg) -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the state of emergency in the Tokyo region would end on Sunday after targets for relieving strain on the health care system were reached, even as coronavirus cases in the capital rose slightly.
Suga told reporters Thursday the government will be carefully watching the situation to prevent a fresh surge in infections as he set an end to the measure that had been in place for more than two months in a region home to about 36 million people.
“The number of new cases is flat, or on a slightly upward trend, and more people are going out in some areas, so there are concerns about a rebound,” Suga told reporters. “We must also be cautious about the spread of mutated viruses.”
Tokyo and the adjoining prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba were the last to be kept under the emergency measure, which was imposed after a record surge of cases in January, and ended in other areas of the country earlier this month. Tokyo recorded 409 new cases on Wednesday, the highest figure since Feb. 18.
Under the emergency, local governments instructed bars and restaurants to close by 8 p.m., and advised people to avoid going out unnecessarily. The limited measures helped bring infections under control, but have caused financial pain for eateries, some of which have defied the restrictions.
Suga said he would swiftly put in place measures to continue financial support for bars and restaurants.
Lifting the measure nationwide is a symbolic gesture of optimism just days before the torch relay begins on March 25 for the virus-delayed Tokyo Olympics, now scheduled to start in July. Relaxing controls before a significant number of Japanese have been vaccinated may leave the country vulnerable to another wave of infections.
When asked about the timing of the next general election, with the lower house term set to end in October, Suga said his priority was to tackle the virus, but that he was considering holding the vote before his term as ruling party leader ends in September.
About 420,000 of Japan’s 126 million population had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Wednesday. Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said earlier the government would warn people to avoid events like the cherry-blossom parties traditionally held in the spring.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.