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Japan issues state of emergency over pandemic, virus surges in Tokyo

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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency over the Covid-19 pandemic on Thursday for Tokyo and its surrounding region.

The declaration covers the capital and its three neighbouring prefectures – Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama – considered at highest risk of infection with the coronavirus, Suga told a meeting of the government’s pandemic response team.

Speaking at a news conference, Suga urged residents in the four prefectures to refrain from non-essential and non-urgent outings.

About half of recent nationwide infections were from the four prefectures, the premier said.
He added the measure takes effect on Friday and lasts until February 7.

The move comes as Japan reported more than 6,100 new infections, including 2,447 cases in Tokyo, on Thursday, marking the highest daily tally for the third day in a row, according to Kyodo News.

The number of patients with severe symptoms in Tokyo has grown to a record 121, broadcaster NHK reported.
The governors of the four prefectures decided earlier this week to request that bars and restaurants shorten business hours from Friday in order to curb new infections.

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Japan’s month-long countrywide state of emergency ended in mid-May in most of its 47 prefectures. Several prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, were under the measure for about six weeks.

In March, the global pandemic forced the International Olympic Committee and Japan to postpone the Tokyo Olympics and the Paralympics by one year to July and August this year.

Japan has so far escaped a coronavirus outbreak on the scale seen in Europe and the United States, with a total of more than 265,000 known infections and about 3,850 Covid-19-related deaths, according to an NHK tally.

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