State of emergency for COVID-19 goes into effect

Japan's third state of emergency to contain the rising number of cases of coronavirus has gone into effect in the nation's capital and three western prefectures.

The declaration will be in place for just over two weeks through May 11 in Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo, and Kyoto.

Daily case numbers in these prefectures have kept rising. Tokyo reported the largest number of cases on Saturday since the second state of emergency was lifted. Osaka registered more than 1,000 cases for the fifth straight day. Infections in Hyogo and Kyoto both hit the highest ever.

The government plans to stem a sharp rise in variant infections in a short period of time by requesting strong restrictions over an annual weeklong holiday.

Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol or offer karaoke are being asked to temporarily close. The same request is being made of large commercial facilities, such as shopping malls and department stores.

The government is also asking people to refrain from non-essential outings and traveling to and from areas where case numbers are surging.

It is asking employers to have people work from home and encourage them to take leave during the holiday period, so that the number of commuters can be reduced by 70 percent.

The first declaration, issued last April, was in effect for about a month and a half before it was lifted for all prefectures. The second one, issued in January of this year, was in place for about two-and-a-half months.

Some experts said a two-week period is too short for evaluating how effective the measures have been. The government is being tested on whether it can flatten the curve of the pandemic enough to lift the declaration in a short period of time.