Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s Prime Minister, announced the state of emergency following concerns that ‘the nationwide, rapid spread of the coronavirus is having a big impact on people’s lives and the economy’, as well as Japan’s hospitals.
“Every day we are seeing record numbers of infections. We have a very serious sense of crisis,” said Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister responsible for Japan’s pandemic response.
As such, Tokyo will be placed under lockdown, with bars and restaurants asked to stop serving alcohol at 7pm and to close an hour later; Gyms, department stores and entertainment facilities asked to shorten their opening hours; and Tokyo residents and those in three surrounding areas – Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures – encouraged to avoid non-essential outings after 8pm.
The new tough restrictions will remain in place until at least February 7, it has been reported, and it has been warned they will not be lifted in Tokyo until cases decline to 500 a day – on 7 January, Tokyo reported a record high of 2,447 coronavirus cases in one day.
Impact on the Olympics and international travel
Many speculate that this lockdown could impact the upcoming Olympic Games due to take place in Tokyo this year (and which have already been postponed), especially as the widespread distribution of vaccinations will be key to facilitating international travel and Japan has yet to approve any developed vaccination, only due to start trials of the Moderna vaccine this month.
Still, no doubt, once something is approved, its rollout may well be a much smoother operation than is currently the case in other countries already in the process of vaccinations – in fact, this may well be crucial to ensure any kind of international travel to the destination this year. Although the Japanese Government has also floated the idea of mandatory health insurance for inbound international travellers in 2021.