Japan will not reintroduce state of emergency, govt spokesman says, as Tokyo coronavirus cases hit record high

People at the Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, on June 29, 2020.
People at the Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, on June 29, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - There is no need to reintroduce a state of emergency, Japan’s top government spokesman said on Thursday (July 9)  when asked about a record one-day rise in Tokyo coronavirus cases. 

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters there were 224 new cases of novel coronavirus infection in Tokyo on Thursday. That marked a new daily record in Japan’s capital since the crisis began. 

About 80 per cent of the new coronavirus cases reported on Thursday were among people in their 30s or younger, Suga said, adding that it was not possible to reduce infection risks to zero after the country’s lifting of a state of emergency in May.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said that increased testing had led to the surge, with the authorities encouraging night-time businesses such as host and hostess bars to have their staff tested.

Ms Koike, who won re-election as governor on Sunday, has promised to boost testing capacity to 10,000 a day. 

"Although the increase in (testing) is a contributing factor, we need more vigilance in monitoring the trend in infected people," she said in remarks streamed online. 

"Infections in the night-life district are still making up a certain number of cases, but we’ve recently also seen an increase in cases among young people dining together."

While small in comparison to some global cities, the number reported by national broadcaster NHK came as a shock after the figure had dropped below 100 on Wednesday for the first time in a week.

Tokyo markets reacted negatively to the news, with the Topix index erasing its gains. Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura had said earlier that figures on Thursday and Friday could be higher because of reporting lags from Wednesday.

 
 
 
 

Officials have argued that the recent spike in cases is different from back in April, as the bulk of the infections are from those in their 20s and 30s who are less likely to fall severely ill.

The healthcare system is not under strain, and more infection cases can be traced, they've said. Mr Nishimura reiterated on Thursday that there was no need to declare a state of emergency at this time.

However, the capital’s virus monitoring panel meeting, which was live-streamed, heard a report that infections were increasing among people in their 40s and 50s, as well as advice that the healthcare system should be strengthened. A city official said a new facility was being prepared to isolate mild cases.

Ms Koike called on people to avoid areas that meet the "Three C's" - closed spaces, crowded spaces and close-contact settings - and especially encouraging people at drinking parties not to drink from the same glass.

Central and local governments have sometimes clashed over the response to the virus. Ms Koike last weekend urged Tokyo residents to avoid traveling to other parts of the country, while Cabinet ministers have repeatedly said no such restraint is necessary.