Tokyo extends state of emergency in metropolitan area till March 21 in surge of COVID-19 cases

Tokyo extends state of emergency in metropolitan area till March 21 in surge of  COVID-19 cases
IANS
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has extended the state of emergency covering the Tokyo metropolitan area by two weeks to March 21 for a second time since January, as Covid-19 infection numbers have continued to increase in the region.

Suga made the decision to extend the state of emergency for Tokyo and the three surrounding prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama at a meeting of the government's Covid-19 task force on Friday, reporters said.

The Prime Minister said the measure is "necessary to protect lives and livelihoods".

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The Japanese government is scrambling to bring the Covid-19 outbreak under control ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, set to kick off in less than five months.

Since the state of emergency was declared, people have been more ardently requested to refrain from making unnecessary trips outdoors and to work from home.

Bars and restaurants in particular have also been asked to shorten their operating hours and close their doors by 8 p.m.

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Meanwhile, companies are encouraged to adopt remote working and attendance at large events such as concerts and sports games is capped at 5,000.

Earlier in the day, a panel of experts in infectious diseases and other fields held a meeting to approve the move.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of the country's coronavirus response, said at the meeting that he plans to expand testing and contact tracing in an effort to contain the outbreak.

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Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike called the two-week extension a "crucial period" to prevent a resurgence in infections.

Tokyo on Friday reported 301 new cases, increasing the capital's cumulative infection tally to 112,925.

The average number of new infections in the capital in the week through Friday surpassed that of the preceding seven days for the first time since January 15.

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The country's overall Covid-19 caseload has increased to 437,861, while the death toll stands at 8,211.

A one-month state of emergency was initially declared for the greater Tokyo area on January 7 before being expanded to cover 11 prefectures in Japan.

It was later extended by an additional month but cut short for all prefectures except the Tokyo area as improvements were seen in infection rates and the strain on the healthcare system.

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