THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
January 13, 2021 at 19:00 JST
A video display in Tokyo's Shinjuku entertainment district shows Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga explaining the state of emergency for the capital and three neighboring prefectures on Jan. 7. (Kazuhiro Nagashima)
Despite the prime minister’s earlier comment, the government on Jan. 13 placed seven more prefectures under its state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic, including urban centers from central Japan to the southwestern Kyushu region.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared the state of emergency for the three Kansai area prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, the two Tokai area prefectures of Aichi and Gifu, as well as Tochigi, northeast of Tokyo, and Fukuoka, in Kyushu.
The decision came less than a week after Suga on Jan. 7 declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba.
At that time, Suga told a news conference that he did not feel there was a need to expand the range of the state of emergency.
But since then, governors from various prefectures where novel coronavirus infections are spreading have asked central government officials to include their jurisdictions under the state of emergency.
The state of emergency will last until Feb. 7 for all 11 prefectures.
The seven additional prefectures will ask bars and restaurants to close their doors at 8 p.m. and call on company employees to work from home or commute on a rotation basis so that 70 percent of workers are not in the office at the same time.
At a Jan. 12 meeting of government officials and ruling coalition lawmakers, Suga indicated the central government would begin considering whether to expand the range of the state of emergency, given the various areas that were also recording sharp increases in new COVID-19 cases.
The governors of the three Kansai prefectures held a video conference on Jan. 9 with Yasutoshi Nishimura, the state minister for economic revitalization who is also the government point man to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic. They asked Nishimura to include their prefectures in the state of emergency.
On Jan. 12, the governors of Aichi, Gifu and Tochigi prefectures made a similar request to Nishimura.
For the seven additional prefectures, the central government is expected to increase the amount paid to businesses that cooperate with shortened-hours requests to 60,000 yen ($580) a day from the current 40,000 yen. A similar move has already been made for the first four prefectures covered under the state of emergency.
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