The Japanese government on Monday said it will not yet declare another state of emergency despite a recent spike in daily COVID-19 cases in Tokyo and an uptick in infections nationwide.
Japan‘s top government spokesperson Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press briefing that the recent spike in cases, particularly in Tokyo, did not necessitate the government issuing a new state of emergency over the virus outbreak at this juncture.
Suga’s remarks followed concerns that business closures may be requested again by prefectural governments and restrictions on people’s travels across prefectural borders, just recently lifted, may be reimposed.
His remarks were also with regard to the Tokyo metropolitan government on Sunday reporting the highest daily infection tally since the state of emergency was lifted on May 25, at 60 new cases in the capital of 14 million people.
Suga intimated Monday that the rise in cases in the capital was due to intensive testing of those known to have come into close contact with people already testing positive for COVID-19, as opposed to new infections with no known traceable infection route.
With Japan seeing a daily average of around 100 new infections recently, Suga said the government had no plans as yet to clamp down on the freedom of movement of people and request the public to once again refrain from making unnecessary trips across prefectural borders.
On June 19, the government completely lifted its nationwide travel restrictions, with the move met by throngs of passengers returning to airports and train stations.
Prior to the lifting of travel restrictions, the government had requested that people continue to refrain from making unnecessary trips across prefectural borders, in particular urging against travel to and from Tokyo, and prefectures surrounding the capital including Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa Prefecture.
The request was also made for people to refrain from traveling to or from Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases there at the time.
The Tokyo metropolitan government on the same day, also lifted its remaining business restrictions on nightclubs, live music and similar venues and allowed the number of people attending large-scale, outdoor events like concerts to be increased to 1,000 people.
Indoor venues, meanwhile, are now allowed to permit entrance to numbers of people totaling half the venue’s capacity.
The easing of restrictions on nightclubs has concerned Tokyo metropolitan government officials as well as members of the public in the capital, however, following the outbreak of a cluster of infections in a downtown red-light district in Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward.
This area has been the focus of a disproportionately high numbers of daily COVID-19 cases being detected recently among staff and customers of host and hostess clubs and similar entertainment establishments.
In addition, with the Japanese populace gearing up for summer vacations spent at domestic holiday spots, concerns have been voiced by prefectural officials that the virus may spread commensurate with the increase of people moving around the country to take holidays.
Especially, they said, concerns are mounting about people from large urban areas, like Tokyo, visiting small, countryside regions in the north of the country to escape the summer heat, or subtropical areas in the south, known for their resort hotels and pristine beaches, with both types of hot-spots largely, as yet, unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.
To this, Japan’s top government spokesperson said that previous hopes that the virus would weaken in hot temperatures or under more intense ultraviolet light, had not being proved incontrovertibly correct, as countries and regions with high temperatures around the world are still recording extremely high numbers of daily infections and death tolls.
He said the pneumonia-causing virus has, for example, spread in the Middle East and other regions with high temperatures and no scientific consensus has yet been reached on whether summer temperatures will slow the transmission of the virus, despite earlier anecdotal evidence that this might have been the case.
Suga said that the government is still doing everything in its power to prepare and brace for a second wave of COVID-19 infections.