Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Infection surge raises coronavirus alarm in reopening Tokyo

With 34 new confirmed coronavirus cases in 24 hours, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government raised the alarm once more for the Japanese capital – a day after the city relaxed its business closure requests for department stores as well as sports gyms.

This is the first time since 14 May that Tokyo recorded more than 30 cases in a single day. Local officials attribute the brief rise in cases to nosocomial – or hospital-originated – infections and the partaking in nightlife activities in the Shinjuku area.

To communicate the alert, the metropolitan government’s city offices and the Rainbow Bridge on Tokyo Bay were illuminated in red at 11 pm local time.

“The purpose of this alert is to make residents aware of our precarious situation and urge them to be cautious,” said Governor Yuriko Koike. She also said that reactivating business shutdown requests will be considered if the viral disease continues to spread.

Daily infections in Japan peaked at 200 on 17 April. The figures declined since then and hit its lowest of only two new infections on 23 May. But in Tokyo, over 10 cases had been recorded in eight out of the past 10 days. One of Tokyo’s criteria for issuing the alert is if daily infections exceed 20 on average for a week – a threshold that the Japanese capital has breached since 29 May.

Across the country, new cases have stayed in the low double digits since the state of emergency was lifted in all remaining prefectures – Tokyo included – on 25 May. However, fluctuations in the number of new cases have worried both officials and residents.

In Japan’s plan to exit from the coronavirus restriction, phase two sees the reopening of movie theatres, gyms, department stores and other entertainment venues without any history of infections. It also increases the cap for mass gatherings at 100 people and 200 people for indoor and outdoor events, respectively. Tokyo entered this second phase only a week after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the state of emergency, drawing criticism that the city is moving too quickly.

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