State of emergency declared for Tokyo area

Japan's government has declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures in an attempt to curb the rise in coronavirus cases.

Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide said, "The rapid spread of COVID-19 across the country has created a situation that could have a serious impact on people's lives and the economy. Therefore, I hereby declare a state of emergency based on the anti-virus law."

The declaration will cover Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures. It will go into effect on Friday and remain in place until February 7.

A state of emergency is less strict in Japan than in many western countries. Prefectural governors will have the legal authority to urge residents to cooperate with prevention efforts.

Bars and restaurants will be asked to close by 8 p.m. and to stop serving alcohol an hour earlier. Residents will also be asked to refrain from non-essential outings after 8 p.m.

Companies will be asked to encourage remote work, and reduce the number of staff in their offices by 70 percent.

The number of spectators at live events will be limited to half of the available seats... and no greater than 5,000.

Schools, however, will not be asked to close.

Following the declaration the Prime Minister held a news conference to ask for cooperation.

Suga said, "The coronavirus pandemic is becoming worse than we had ever imagined. But I believe we can overcome this situation. To accomplish this, we have no choice but to ask you to once again restrict your lifestyle. We are determined to improve the situation within the next month. As prime minister, I will do my utmost and take every possible measure to prevent the spread of infection."

Suga added the government hopes to start vaccinations by late next month. He also said he's determined to hold the postponed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in the summer.

This is the second state of emergency declaration for the greater Tokyo area and comes amid a surge in daily cases. On Thursday daily cases in Japan surpassed 7,000 for the first time.

About half of that figure comes from the Tokyo area. Officials in the capital confirmed a record 2,447 new cases on Thursday. 121 people are now in serious condition....the highest figure to date.

Meanwhile, the governor of Osaka says he plans to ask the central government to declare a state of emergency for the western prefecture.

Governor Yoshimura Hirofumi said, "There are clear signs that infections are spreading rapidly. We should take preemptive measures."

Yoshimura says he wants to coordinate Osaka's response with neighboring Hyogo and Kyoto prefectures.