Photo/Illutration Yasutoshi Nishimura, third from left, minister in charge of the government’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, meets with reporters in Tokyo on Jan. 2 with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, second from right, and the governors of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures. (The Asahi Shimbun)

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and those of three prefectures that comprise the greater Tokyo metropolitan area called on the central government Jan. 2 to consider declaring a state of emergency because of dramatic surges in COVID-19 cases.

Koike, along with the governors of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures, met with Yasutoshi Nishimura, the state minister in charge of economic revitalization who is handling the government’s response to the health crisis, to make their request.

The move came after the four prefectures reported record numbers of fresh novel coronavirus infections on Dec. 31, with Tokyo recording 1,337 new cases.

It was not immediately clear how Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will respond to the request as he has not mentioned the possibility of declaring a state of emergency when speaking to reporters in recent days.

If a state of emergency is declared, the governors of the affected prefectures will be able to issue requests to local residents to refrain from going out as well as call on local businesses and other facilities to temporarily close their operations.

There are no penalty provisions for those who do not comply with the requests.

Koike has raised concerns about the large number of COVID-19 patients now hospitalized for treatment. On Jan. 1, there were 2,730 patients receiving treatment, a record since May when such statistics were first compiled.