Japan mulls expanding state of emergency

The Japanese government is considering expanding its state of emergency in an effort to counter a steep rise in coronavirus infections.

The declaration currently covers Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures. It went into effect last Friday and will remain in place until February 7.

Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide updated members of his ruling coalition about the situation earlier on Tuesday.

Suga said, "Outside the Tokyo area... infections are spreading rapidly in Osaka and other prefectures. The government will consider expanding the state of emergency to cover these."

Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto prefectures are expected to be included in the measure as early as Wednesday.

The governor of Tochigi has also asked that the declaration be applied in his prefecture. The governors of Aichi and Gifu plan to make similar requests.

A state of emergency is less strict in Japan than in many western countries. It gives prefectural governors legal authority to urge residents to cooperate with prevention efforts. But there are no legal penalties for failing to comply.

Officials in Tokyo reported 970 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday... after a three-day holiday weekend. 144 people in the capital are in serious condition. That figure is the highest to date.