Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on January 7 (via NHK)
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced on January 7 that the Greater Tokyo Area, which consists of the Tokyo metropolis, Saitama prefecture, Chiba prefecture, and Kanagawa prefecture, will go into a one-month State of Emergency starting January 8 and ending on February 7 to combat the currently rapid spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the region.
This new State of Emergency will be targeting late-night businesses as well as department stores, entertainment facilities, and events, requesting the businesses to close at 8 PM, and limiting the number of event attendees to 5,000 or half capacity, depending on the venue and whichever is smallest. Harsher restrictions for events will arrive on January 14.
Businesses included in the request are; karaoke parlors, bars, movie theaters, museums, gyms, and shops over 1,000 square meters that sell goods and/or are service industries. Businesses who comply with the request in Tokyo will be rewarded with 60,000 yen (US$578) per day, up to 1.8 million yen (US$17,366) per month, while those who don’t will be “named and shamed”.
The four prefectures are also asking residents to telework, with the hope of limiting the use of public transport down 70%.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on January 7 (via NHK)
The governors of the targeted prefectures have also asked people to refrain from leaving their homes after 8 PM unless essential. There is no penalty for not abiding by this request as the Japanese Post-War constitution grants freedom of movement to its residents.
Schools will remain open for the time being, with each area’s Board of Education deciding on what measures their district will enforce. Some wards have stated to their staff that schools will be remaining open as per usual when returning from Winter break. Entrance exams, which are scheduled to start this month, will reportedly still be going ahead with some measures in place. Coming of age ceremonies have been requested to be canceled or pushed online.
This announcement comes five days after the governors of the four prefectures publicly called on Prime Minister Suga to enact another State of Emergency to combat the growing spread in the Greater Tokyo Area. Suga spent five days deliberating, finally getting the all-clear from the Coronavirus Task Force early on Thursday, and announcing on Thursday night to go into effect on Friday.
Medical associations in Japan have been asking for these, and stricter, measures to be put into place since early December. In a meeting early on Thursday, medical experts said that the Tokyo medical system is on the “brink of collapse”, with 67% of the routes of infection untraceable.
Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura on January 7 (via NHK)
After Osaka Governor Yoshimura said on January 7 that the prefecture had “managed to suppress the rapid spread of the infection,” but due to the New Year’s holidays “the number of new cases will be the highest on January 7.” Yoshimura said he has requested a State of Emergency declaration from January 9 for the prefecture.
Miyazaki prefecture, which also recorded the highest-number of cases on January 7, is requesting its own State of Emergency declaration from January 9, asking residents to not leave the prefecture.
Grand Cinema Sunshine in December (photo: Daryl Harding)
Toho Cinemas, Cinema Sunshine, Aeon Cinemas, and SMT Cinemas have halted movie ticket pre-sales, with only on-the-day sales available for screenings, with seats moving again to 50% capacity. Aeon Cinemas was already only selling 50% of seats. All other theaters and amusement parks have been asked to limit capacity to 50%. At this time, there have been no announcements of delays for anime films or TV anime.
As of writing, 7,533 new cases of coronavirus were recorded on January 7, the highest amount ever recorded. Tokyo alone recorded 2,447 new cases, a record for the prefecture, with the Greater Tokyo area recording 4,036 new cases, a record for the region.
If you or someone who know is living in Japan, coronavirus-based English resources are available at NHK World Japan.
Daryl Harding is a Japan Correspondent for Crunchyroll News. He also runs the YouTube channel about Japan stuff called TheDoctorDazza, tweets at @DoctorDazza, and posts photos of his travels on Instagram.