The state is set to last for at least a month.
During a news conference on Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that due to record numbers of COVID-19 cases in the vicinity of Tokyo, the area will be entering an official state of emergency starting tomorrow. This state is slated to last until at least February 7.
As of Thursday, Japan’s total COVID case tally has reached 6,100, with at least half of that statistic coming from Tokyo alone. For about a week now, multiple prefecture governors, as well as Suga’s own COVID response panel, have been pleading with the Prime Minister to take action. Suga was reluctant to make the call, wanting to preserve the country’s economic stability, much of which is centralized in Tokyo, but was finally forced to relent in the face of notably low approval ratings.
Many medical professionals are concerned that a single month will not be sufficient to stem the tide of new cases. “It’s not possible to control in a couple of weeks, or less than a month,” COVID response panel head Shigeru Omi said. “Stronger measures might be needed.”
As is becoming the case in other countries, the escalating pandemic is already stretching Japan’s medical capabilities to its limits. Even with the state of emergency in Tokyo, the virus is still spreading at a steady clip elsewhere in the country. “The collapse of the health care system is a reality, all over Japan,” Japan Medical Association head Toshio Nakagawa said Wednesday.
“Everyone knows it’s not limited to just Tokyo and its three surrounding prefectures,” he added.
Political experts are projecting a rough future for Suga after he waited so long to take action. “It’s certainly possible that Suga can get through this if numbers start to improve, you start getting the vaccine distributed, weather changes and somehow muddling through without a wider-scale state of emergency or taking actions that could really impact the economy,” said Japanese political expert Tobias Harris. “It’s running a pretty big risk.”