Feb. 2 (UPI) — Japan will extend a state of emergency for 10 prefectures as coronavirus infections rise and officials say the pandemic is adding strain to hospitals.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday the declaration of emergency for 10 regions, including Tokyo, will be extended until March 7, or another month, NHK reported.
According to Suga, Japan’s Jan. 7 emergency declaration brought down daily case numbers in Tokyo and across the country. The extension is expected to have a “clear effect” and reduce cases further, the prime minister said, according to reports.
Last year, Japan canceled the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games and rescheduled the events for 2021. The Games could still take place but without spectators, according to reports.
Economic Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said cases are fewer in number but hospitals remain strained. On Tuesday, Japan reported 2,324 new cases of COVID-19 and 119 COVID-related deaths including in Tokyo and Chiba Prefecture, according to Mainichi Shimbun. Total cases since the start of the pandemic are now at 394,798.
Last week Suga apologized for the continued rise in cases. During a speech before parliament Suga said he is “very sorry” for extending the emergency declaration.
“I take all responsibility” for being unable to prevent the spread of the infection, Suga had said, while requesting public cooperation.
Under the January state of emergency, companies were required to accommodate remote working and restaurants to abide by an 8 p.m. curfew.
The government response has also drawn criticism of mixed messages, however.
Kenji Shibuya, director of the Institute for Population Health at King’s College London told CNN Tokyo’s response is “too slow and confusing,” referring to an earlier policy that encouraged domestic travel.
“The government is basically asking people voluntarily to behave properly, but does not do more than that,” Shibuya said.
Japan has not begun administering COVID-19 vaccines, but it is preparing to receive shipments on Feb. 14, according to Kyodo News.
Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will be approved on Feb. 12 and 10,000 Japanese health workers will be first in line, according to the report.