Tokyo area braces for second state of emergency

Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide says a second state of emergency will be more focused than a similar measure instituted last spring. Millions of people in and around Tokyo are bracing for the state of emergency as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

Suga said on Monday, "We are taking the situation seriously, so it is necessary to send a stronger message. I think carrying out limited but intensive measures will be effective."

He added that the government will make a final decision on the matter on Thursday. He also said the declaration will apply to Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures. The measure is likely to remain in place for around a month.

A state of emergency gives prefectural governors the legal authority to urge residents to cooperate with antivirus efforts.

The four governors will ask people to refrain from non-essential outings after 8 p.m.

They will also request that bars and restaurants close by that time.

Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko said, "The situation has entered a completely different stage. It is necessary make efforts to reduce the risk of infection, including by significantly curbing the movement of people, and reducing social contact."

A state of emergency is less rigid in Japan than in many western countries. It has so far relied on voluntary closures, rather than strict lockdowns.

But Suga says he will submit a legal revision to the Diet that would allow penalties for those who do not comply.

The central government is also working with local officials in the affected areas to tighten rules on events, and to encourage businesses to allow more staff to work remotely.

The Greater Tokyo area now accounts for half of infections reported in the country. With the number of critically ill patients surging, governors around the capital are warning that the medical system could collapse.

Frontline medical workers say they hope the state of emergency will encourage people to be more alert.

More than 3,300 cases were reported across Japan on Monday. Over 3,600 people in Japan have died since the pandemic began.