Tokyo to seek state of emergency declaration

The governments of Tokyo and three other neighboring prefectures are to ask the central Japanese government on Saturday afternoon to declare a state of emergency in the face of surging coronavirus infections.

Sources say Tokyo will file the request along with Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, where infections are also rapidly spreading.

The capital reported a record 1,337 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, with the daily total topping 1,000 for the first time. On New Year's Day, Tokyo confirmed 783 cases, the second largest daily figure for a Friday.

Also on Friday, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients hit a new high.

Experts have warned that medical institutions in Tokyo are under severe strain.

Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko and governors of the three neighboring prefectures are soon to meet with Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura Yasutoshi, who is in charge of Japan's coronavirus response, to seek the declaration.

Sources say Tokyo officials have a sense of urgency as they consider the rate of infections to be on the verge of an explosive rise. They believe steps must be toughened immediately.

The metropolitan government has strongly urged people to refrain from nonessential outings and spend a quiet holiday at home during the year-end and New Year period. But officials fear such advice will not be quickly effective in preventing the spread of the virus.

The officials appear to hope an official state of emergency under a special anti-coronavirus law will help restrict the movement of people, thereby stemming the further spread of infections.