Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a state of emergency in the prefectures of Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Hyogo, and Fukuoka on Tuesday until May 6. Abe said that he will lift the declaration after these countermeasures to the outbreak of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) become unnecessary.
Abe made the decision to declare the state of emergency after consulting an advisory panel made up of public health and medical experts on Tuesday. The panel reportedly warned that people infected with COVID-19 are likely to develop severe symptoms such as pneumonia. The panel also noted that the number of cases in Japan is surging, with many cases untraceable, and the situation is putting severe strain on the country's healthcare system.
Abe said on Monday and confirmed on Tuesday that he does not plan to order a "lockdown," and hopes to "maintain economic and social activities as much as possible." He noted that public transportation, grocery stores, and other essential services will remain open.
The declaration gives prefectural governors the power to ask residents to refrain from leaving their homes for non-essential purposes, ask residents to "cooperate with measures to prevent the further spread of the virus," request or order school closures, restrict the operations of retailers and other places where people gather, use land and buildings without owner consent to build medical facilities, order logistics companies to deliver medial equipment and supplies, and expropriate medical supplies. However, there are no penalties for individuals who do not follow the rules.
Tokyo reported 143 new infections from COVID-19 on Sunday — marking another day of record high increases, and bringing the number of total infections in Tokyo to 1,033. Health officials are particularly concerned that 64% of the new cases on Sunday, or 92 cases, had no clear infection routes. Tokyo reported 83 more cases on Monday, but 88%, or 73 cases, had no clear infection routes. Knowing the infection routes was key to Japan's anti-COVID-19 policy until now. The country's previous efforts hinged on identifying and isolating clusters of infections as they crop up.
The metropolitan government previously asked high schools to remain closed until early May, and asked local education boards to consider the same for elementary and junior high schools, but did so with no current legal way to compel these entities to comply.
The first reported cases of COVID-19 were in Wuhan, China in December, and then the disease began to spread in varying rates and intensities across many parts of the globe through incubation in human hosts. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a world health emergency on January 30, and announced on March 11 that it is classifying the outbreak as a pandemic. As of Monday, the WHO reported that there are 1,210,956 infected individuals worldwide. 67,594 individuals have died from the disease.
As of Monday, the WHO reported that Japan has 3,654 cases of COVID-19 with 73 deaths. These numbers do not include the number of cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama. That cruise ship had 712 infected passengers with seven deaths.
The Japanese government is working to restrict travel to the country from many territories around the world.