Yuriko Koike calls on government to enact tougher virus measures in Tokyo as infections rise

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Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Thursday urged the central government to grant him legal authority to employ tougher coronavirus measures in the capital, where a sudden resurgence of new cases, inflamed by contagious variants, has brought the city to prepare for a fourth wave.

“Untraceable cases and those related to variants are emerging at an increasing rate,” Koike told reporters on Thursday. “What’s crucial now is to contain foot traffic and cross prefectural borders to prevent the coronavirus variants from spreading across the country.”

Koike submitted an official request on Thursday asking the central government to give her the designation she needs to take further countermeasures aimed at preventing a third state of emergency, which could include asking catering establishments to close before 20 hours, an hour earlier than what is happening now. request. The measures took effect earlier this month in parts of Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures amid a wave of infections in those areas.

Although she did not specify where, when, for how long or to whom the new measures would take effect, Koike hinted that more stringent measures should be taken at least until the end of Golden Week, which begins at the end of April.

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Tokyo reported 545 new cases on Thursday, a day after seeing 555, its highest daily figure in more than two months.

Nationwide, the country reported 3,451 more cases on Wednesday, the most in a single day since late January.

People walk a street in Ameyoko Market in Tokyo’s Ueno district on Tuesday. | TBEN-JIJI

The capital on Wednesday reported a new daily record of 30 cases linked to variants. All were found to be of the N501Y variant, officials said, believed to be from the UK.

Tokyo officials have warned that if the spread of variants is not detected early and the current surge in new cases is not contained, it could turn into a major outbreak that surpasses the previous three waves seen over the years. Last 15 months.

A sharp increase in foot traffic, a growing number of infected young people and untraceable cases as well as a growing number of cases of variant infections are all major concerns, officials said at a meeting in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Thursday.

The measures requested by Koike – often called “manbо̄The shortened version of the full name in Japanese – is new and became possible after a review of Japanese infectious disease laws in February.

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They allow local leaders to use measures to avoid the need for stricter rules in a state of emergency. Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi were the first three prefectures to adopt near-emergency measures.

“New cases are emerging at an increasing rate in the capital,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike warned during a meeting at the Tokyo metropolitan government headquarters on Thursday. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI

The second state of emergency in Japan – which was declared in early January in 11 prefectures and then extended for all except Tochigi – was lifted in six prefectures in early March, including Osaka and Hyogo.

There are fears of a delayed peak in Tokyo, where the state of emergency was lifted on March 22, nearly three weeks after the two Kansai prefectures.

Osaka Prefecture declared a medical emergency on Wednesday, the same day it reported a record 878 new cases.

On Thursday, he broke that record by reporting 905 more cases.

Other prefectures are following similar trajectories as the virus continues to rebound across the country.

New cases have increased across most of the country since early March, but have started to worsen in recent weeks, including in Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi as well as Tokyo, Aichi, Okinawa and Yamagata.

Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura at Prefectural Coronavirus Task Force Meeting Wednesday |  KYODO
Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura at Prefectural Coronavirus Task Force Meeting Wednesday | KYODO

When the country’s second state of emergency was declared in January and lifted in March, the greater Tokyo metropolitan area – which includes the capital and prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama – was treated like a bundle.

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This time, however, the new measures can only be rolled out in Tokyo, at least for now.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said last week that prefectures would be designated for tougher countermeasures at the request of local governors.

Chiba Governor Toshihito Kumagai said on Thursday that the prefecture had “not reached a point where such a request was necessary.” Still, he added, a rise in the capital has tended to lead to a rise in neighboring prefectures, so a decision needs to be made quickly if and when this happens.

Kanagawa Governor Yuji Kuroiwa said on Wednesday that new cases have been contained so far and the prefecture does not need stronger measures at this time.

Kyoto Governor Takatoshi Nishiwaki, meanwhile, said on Thursday that he planned to formally ask the central government on Friday for permission to enact more stringent measures.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike approaches reporters on April 1 just hours after the central government announced tougher coronavirus measures would be taken in Osaka, Miyagi and Hyogo prefectures.  |  RYUSEI TAKAHASHI
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike approaches reporters on April 1 just hours after the central government announced tougher coronavirus measures would be taken in Osaka, Miyagi and Hyogo prefectures. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI

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