Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday that he expects to decide whether to extend the state of emergency covering Tokyo and other parts of Japan struggling to stop the spread of the coronavirus several days before it expires on February 7.
Speaking to a parliamentary committee, Suga said the timing of the decision had to strike the right balance – too early, health experts would not be able to check the latest data, it was too late, and people would be surprised.
These comments come as more and more people in his administration and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party believe an extension is inevitable.
According to sources familiar with the matter, one option is to maintain the state of emergency, under which the public is urged to refrain from leaving the house unnecessarily while restaurants and bars are asked to shorten their working hours, until the end of February.
The state of emergency covers 11 of Japan’s 47 prefectures – Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Tochigi, Aichi, Gifu, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, and Fukuoka – covering more than half of the country’s population and nearly 60% of its economy.
The improvement of the situation from Stage 4, the worst level on the government’s four-point scale, to Stage 3 will not be immediately justified, Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister responsible for responding to the coronavirus in Japan, said at the House of Councilors’ Budget Committee meeting. Lift the state of emergency.
“We will make a decision based on a comprehensive assessment of the situation,” he said.
The stages are based on six main indicators, including the weekly number of infections per 100,000 people and the percentage of hospital beds currently available for COVID-19 patients.
Tokyo, which is set to host the Olympics and Paralympics within six months, on Wednesday reported 973 new daily cases of coronavirus, as the number showed a downward trend in recent days.
The capital has seen four-digit increases nearly every day since it entered January, but Wednesday’s number remained below 1,000 points for the third time since Sunday. Its cumulative case count now stands at 96,507.
However, with the number of patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms still hovering around 150, Tokyo faces the risk of a collapse of the medical system. There has also been an increase in the number of people dying at home due to a lack of available hospital beds.
Health experts have warned that rushing to lift the state of emergency too early will quickly lead to a return of coronavirus cases.
In response to a question from opposition MP Renho whether there was any scientific data supporting his promise to improve the situation by February 7, Suga said that the pledge was a sign of his “strong determination” to stop the spread of the Corona virus and that it was inappropriate to talk about an extension soon very.
Public support for Suga, who took office in September, is dwarfed by what has been criticized as a slow response to the pandemic. A Kyodo News poll this month showed his government’s approval rating at 41.3%, down 9 percentage points from December.
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