Tokyo – After days of record coronaviruses and a rapidly rising death in Japan, Japan on Thursday declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and three surrounding provinces, the country’s first such declaration since April.
Five days after the announcement by Prime Minister Yoshihida Suga, the governors of the affected provinces had urged the central government to take action, and their own Coronavirus expert panel recommended an emergency declaration citing the explosive rise in infection in the vast capital region .
Virus deaths in Japan have more than doubled in less than two months to more than 3,700, and the governor of Tokyo warned that the medical system is under stress. Mr. Suga was hesitant to implement the emergency measure, hoping to preserve economic activity, but eventually succumbed to pressure from Tokyo-area officials, as his four-month-old administration in the elections and its epidemic dealt with But there was widespread discontent.
Describing the difficult choices that have dragged Mr. Suga’s feet, many world leaders have faced an epidemic for nearly a year now entering a grueling new phase, with widespread vaccinations still months away. They are under pressure to reduce growing caseloads despite public fatigue over virus restrictions, while breathing life back into their economies.
Health experts warned that the emergency declaration, which would last for a month, may still not be enough to turn the tide.
The manifesto contains little legal evasion and relies mostly on voluntary compliance. The government is asking for restaurants in Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama Prefecture to be closed by 8 pm, to encourage employers to work employees from home, and to prohibit residents from going out for all necessary tasks. Has to do, but after 8th grade, schools, museums, theaters, gyms and shops will be open.
The governor of Osaka, the country’s third largest province, said on Thursday that he planned to ask the central government to add it to the area covered by the Emergency Declaration.
In an interaction with reporters after the government’s expert panel recommended the move on Tuesday, the head of the panel, Shigeru Omi, said that declaring a state of emergency would not guarantee a drop in the rate of infection.
“It is not possible to control it in a few weeks, or less than a month,” Mr. Omi said. “Stronger measures may be required.”
Japan has reported a total of 258,393 cases, which is lower than many Western countries. After its emergence in May, in its previous, brief state of emergency, it was called the “Japan Model”: contact tracing and cluster-busting, comprehensive Wear a mask, And as few restrictions on the economy as possible.
But as Japan has experienced several record-setting days for new infections since the end of last month – Tokyo reported 2,447 cases on Thursday, and more than 7,000 countries – its coronovirus-fighting model came under strain. Japan is not expected to start vaccinating the public, at least by the end of February, a process that will take months.
“We have a lot of cases right now, and the state of emergency is coming too late,” said Fumi Sakamoto, an infection control manager at Tokyo’s St. Luke’s International Hospital. “It’s now better than ever, but it should have been announced in the fall last year.”
Ms Sakamoto said the hospital’s ICU and general ward were full. “We can’t take any more patients at this time,” she said. “I think a lot of hospitals taking Kovid patients are in the same condition right now.”
Japan has taken gradual steps since the end of last month, when it first detected cases More communicable forms of coronovirus It first emerged in Britain. The government closed the borders for new foreign travelers, and Mr. Suga suspended subsidies for the domestic itinerary after weeks of resistance.
Legally, there is no legal power to quickly close businesses in the event of an emergency announced on Thursday, but Mr. Suga said the government considered amending the law to allow local authorities to punish those businesses Those who do not comply with official requests. The government has also said it will compensate businesses that close early or comply with other requests to restrict operations.
Mr. Suga has weighed such new enforcement powers as the public has increasingly attacked his administration. In a survey by Nikkei and TV Tokyo late last month, close to 60 percent of respondents said they did not have government approval to deal with the epidemic. Just 42 percent said they supported Mr. Suga’s administration, down from about three-quarters in September, when he became Prime Minister.
Some political analysts said that Mr. Suga and his Liberal Democratic Party were more fearless for business interests than the general public.
“The LDP has traditionally not been a party to the ordinary Japanese voter,” he said Amy CatlinakIs an assistant professor of politics at New York University. “It has been the party for its various interest groups and supporters,” many in the restaurant and travel industry who would be negatively affected by requests to stop activities, he continued.
Now is the time, some analysts said, for the government to reconsider its priorities.
“It just shows you how hard it is to break away from the mind that they have so much for the last year that we’re going to strike a balance between public health and economic development and we’re going to keep threading that needle Trying, ”said Tobias Harris, expert on Japanese politics at Tenno Intelligence in Washington.
“It’s certainly possible that Sugga can get through it. If the numbers start improving, you start distributing the vaccine, mingling widely without changes in the weather and emergency in some way. Go or take action that can really affect the economy, ”Mr. Harris said. “This is a huge risk going on.”
However, some economists said that given that Japan’s level of infection is still much lower than in Britain, continental Europe, or the United States, any ban would unnecessarily harm an already battered economy.
“Of course, this is a problem if the number of infections and deaths increases, but I don’t think the current numbers are serious to that extent,” said Taro Sito, an executive researcher at the NLI Research Institute in Tokyo. “I think it’s an exaggeration.”
According to an estimate by Chief Economist Toshihiro Nagahama, an emergency situation in Japan could decrease by 1.7 trillion yen ($ 16.5 billion) a month. Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.
Nevertheless, Mr. Nagmaha believes that emergency declaration is necessary to reduce infections and prevent the collapse of the medical system.
As Japan enters the difficult winter months of the epidemic, the relief remains somewhat distant. The country has not yet vaccinated any rolled vaccine in the United States, Europe and other parts of the world. It has a contract to purchase supplements from Pfizer, Modern and AstraZeneca.
Still, the nation has a reason, beyond saving lives, to prevent new infections from the spiral: it is hoping to host a deferred 2020 The olympics this summer.
The biggest targets of emergency will be restaurants. With the public in large numbers wearing masks in vehicles, at shops, and in schools, experts have said that indoor dining was likely to be an important part of transmission when people should take off their masks to eat.
Takayuki Kojima, 56, manager of Platinum Lamb, a grilled meat restaurant in Shimbashi, a popular locality in Tokyo, to work, with a request to close until 8am, said the ban would deprive businesses of their most popular operating hours. .
“It’s the busiest time,” Mr. Kojima said. “Honestly, I feel like we are being asked to close the business”. He said many restaurants could go bankrupt. He said that in addition to the restricted opening hours, many of his normal customers would now work from home.
Keiji Dobashi, 46, manager of Itmae Baru, a Japanese restaurant in Ginza, a popular shopping and nightlife district in central Tokyo, said many areas associated with the restaurant business would suffer, including fish, vegetable and meat vendors, liquor shops, florists Huh. , Similar manufacturers and even companies that manufacture small hand towels, known as Oshibori, which restaurants provide to all customers before serving food.
But Mr Dobasi said he was resigned to the sanctions. “I don’t think we have any other option,” he said. “Until the epidemic is controlled, the economy will not recover.”