Japanese governors seek state of emergency

The governors of Tokyo and three other neighboring prefectures have asked the central government on Saturday afternoon to consider declaring a state of emergency in the face of surging coronavirus infections.

They are Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko and the governors of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, where infections are also rapidly spreading.

They met with Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura Yasutoshi, who is in charge of Japan's coronavirus response, to seek the declaration.

On Thursday, the capital reported a record 1,337 new cases of the coronavirus, the first time the daily total has topped 1,000. 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.

Sources say Tokyo officials are feeling 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 to spend a quiet holiday at home during the year-end and New Year period. But officials fear such advice will not prevent the spread of the virus quickly enough.

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.