Japan has entered into a “light” state of emergency that is projected to last a month, however, public health experts in the country already believe that it will take longer to sufficiently slow down the rate in which the Covid-19 virus is spreading.
Japan has reported record breaking new daily infections for at least two days in the last week, and the capital of Tokyo is facing some of the worst rates it’s seen in months. Hitoshi Oshitani, a professor of virology at Tohoku University and a member of the expert panel advising the government, recently spoke with the press regarding the current timeline the nation has set up in regards to curbing the spread.
“I’m not sure if the situation can become better within a month. It’s certainly much more difficult to control the current situation compared to the outbreak in summer.”
Japan has entered into a more limited state of emergency, meaning remote work is being encouraged, and restaurant hours have been reduced. Movie theaters, gyms, karaoke bars, and theme parks are all set to remain open as well with reduced hours, and large events are still permitted with a reduced capacity; for reference in their initial state of emergency all of those businesses were completely shut down.
For the time being, these measures only apply to the capital of Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures. In order for the emergency status to be lifted these regions must emerge from their current “Stage 4” rankings; stage 4 is the highest stage an area can be in Japan, and is determined by hospital capacity, positive test rates, and weekly increases in new infections.
Shigeru Omi is the head of the panel of experts that is advising the government on these states of emergency, and recently spoke with the media about how initially he believed it would to be “next to impossible” for the nation to emerge from their state of emergency in just a month, however, after analyzing the recent data he seems more hopeful for the future.
“It’s not very easy but I believe it’s possible to reduce the infections to a Stage 3 level within a month if everyone does their best.”
Omi went on to explain that residents need to fully follow the suggested measures by staying home and avoiding all nighttime dining, drinking, and partying; which as we’ve seen here in America, is quite difficult to do when the government keeps these establishments open. He also explained that the government will need to push for legal changes so that establishments that refuse to follow these rules will be punished through fines.
Japan last entered a state of emergency in the spring which began in just seven prefectures, but eventually expanded to be nationwide. The state of emergency slowly began being phased out in May of last year.
While Japan was highly praised in the beginning of this pandemic for its success in containing the virus without imposing strict lockdowns, after a while a slew of challenges began appearing. Cases initially began increasing across the country in November, and have remained on the rise ever since. Tokyo being the city hit the hardest, Omi and other experts are hopeful that the nation can return to a greater sense of normalcy by February.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.