State of emergency mulled for Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto

The Japanese government will analyze the rate of new coronavirus infections and other benchmarks to decide whether to additionally declare a state of emergency in the western prefectures of Osaka, Hyogo, and Kyoto.

The governors of the three prefectures requested on Saturday that the government issue the declaration. They held an online meeting with the minister in charge of coronavirus response, Nishimura Yasutoshi.

Nishimura said he agrees with the governors that the situation in their regions is extremely serious. He asked them to call on bars and restaurants to close at 8 p.m. and take other steps that are already in place in greater Tokyo.

Experts advising the government have said that the number of infections in Osaka is increasing at an irregular pace, unlike in Tokyo. They called for a detailed analysis of data so that an appropriate policy can be drawn up.

Government officials therefore plan to study the daily infection counts, the rate of people testing positive for the virus, and other benchmarks in Osaka, Hyogo, and Kyoto. They will also monitor the availability of hospital beds before deciding whether to declare a state of emergency.

Officials also plan to continue analyzing data from Aichi and Gifu in central Japan, as well as other areas where the number of infections is surging.

A state of emergency took effect on Friday in Tokyo and its neighbors, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa.

In addition to shorter hours at eateries, people there are asked to refrain from non-essential outings after 8 p.m., and businesses are to reduce the number of staff at their offices by 70 percent.

But government officials say data from Friday showed no significant decline in commuter traffic in the four prefectures. They plan to continue urging companies to promote remote working.