Japan extends state of emergency amid fears over second wave

Japan extends state of emergency amid fears over second wave 1

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has extended the country’s state emergency until the end of the month, amid warnings that relaxing physical distancing advice too soon could flood already crowded hospitals with coronavirus patients.

Abe declared a month-long state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures on 7 April, enabling local governors to request that people avoid unnecessary trips outside and that non-essential businesses close.

The measures have since been expanded nationwide, but they are far less restrictive than those introduced in the US and parts of Europe, with no fines or other penalties for those who do not comply.

The restrictions were due to end on Wednesday – the end of a series of public holidays known as Golden Week – but Abe said at a press conference on Monday they would remain in place in all regions until 31 May. He called on people to adopt “new lifestyles” based around physical distancing, adding that the extension was “designed for us to prepare for the next step and put an end to the state of emergency”.

His decision came after after government experts had warned that the number of new infections had not fallen enough to warrant a relaxation of social distancing measures, adding that a second wave of cases could put intolerable pressure on hospitals.

The government is expected to urge residents in 13 high-risk prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, to continue cutting person-to-person contact by 80% and exercise other strict social distancing measures.

In prefectures that have recorded relatively few cases, restrictions on business operations and small gatherings will be relaxed, but residents will still be asked not to travel outside their home regions. Bars and nightclubs will be asked to remain shut.

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