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Roundup: Japan's COVID-19 cases hit new record ahead of virus emergency declaration
From:Xinhua  |  2021-01-05 22:44

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TOKYO, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Japan on Tuesday confirmed a record 4,912 new daily infections, bringing the country's cumulative total to 253,437, not including those related to a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo last year.

The new record figure comes as Japan is moving towards declaring another state of emergency in Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, owing to a resurgence of COVID-19 infections in these areas.

The greater Tokyo area now accounts for half of the country's daily infections.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga earlier on Tuesday said that a decision to declare another state of emergency would be made on Thursday, stating, "What the people want from the government and the ruling party is a sense of security and hope."

"We will put the coronavirus response first and work hard at it," Suga said at an executive meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Government officials have said that the emergency declaration is expected to be kept in place for roughly one month for the greater Tokyo area.

Specifically on Tuesday, Tokyo, the hardest hit among all of Japan's 47 prefectures, reported 1,278 new cases, the second-highest on record since the outbreak of the pandemic, bringing its overall tally to 64,752 infections.

Neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture confirmed 622 new infections to total 23,510, Saitama Prefecture, meanwhile, registered 369 new cases, bringing its tally to 15,542 infections, while Chiba Prefecture booked 261 new cases to a total of 12,123 infections.

A state of emergency was declared in Tokyo and six other prefectures on April 7 last year. It was later expanded to cover the whole country.

Before making a final decision, Suga said he would take into account the opinions of health experts on Thursday before making a final decision on the declaration.

He also said he would be looking to the health experts to "set a direction" regarding the emergency declaration.

The Metropolitan government decided Monday to ask restaurants that serve alcohol to close by 8:00 p.m. from Friday, thereafter, all dining facilities including those which do not serve alcohol will be asked to close at 8:00 p.m. from Jan. 12 through Jan. 31.

Saitama Prefecture will take a similar step, sources close to the matter have said.

"Since the Tokyo metropolitan area and surrounding prefectures are connected, we are coordinating with each other to implement (more) effective measures," Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said.

As things stand, there are currently no penalties for people or establishments who fail to comply with new measures set out, although Suga said the government will, by proposing a legal revision this month, try to change this.

The current legislation provides a legal basis for governors to ask residents in their prefectures to stay at home and also enables stronger steps to deal with outbreaks, including the requisition of medical supplies and food, as well as the expropriation of private land for emergency health facilities.

But it does not provide a legal basis for imposing a lockdown with restrictions on the movement of people, or fines for those who leave their homes, as has been seen in numerous countries' lockdowns overseas.

During his New Year's address on Monday, however, Suga said a legal revision aimed at providing benefits for those who comply with anti-virus measures, such as earlier closing times, and penalties for those who do not conform, will be sought in a parliamentary session to be convened later in January.

As the Diet affairs chiefs of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan agreed on the plan, the amendment is expected to be approved by lawmakers in early February. Enditem