Highest coronavirus alert level for Tokyo as cases surge

Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko has put the city on the highest possible alert level in relation to the coronavirus. After a string of days with new cases in the triple digits, she said she wants residents and business owners to do more to prevent infections, but isn't asking businesses to close.

A growing sense of crisis

More than 200 cases were reported for four days in a row through Sunday. By noon on Thursday the governor said the daily count would be a record high, topping 280.

Experts are especially concerned about the increasing number of untraceable cases. The weekly average has nearly doubled recently.

The director of the Disease Control and Prevention Center, Ohmagari Norio, warned that if the pattern continues there could be as many as 1,200 untraceable cases four weeks from now. "If it continues to double, eight weeks from now, the figure would have increased 256-fold," he said.

Governor Koike said at a news conference on Wednesday that she wants Tokyo residents and businesses to cooperate in preventing the spread of the virus.

She called on residents to avoid bars and restaurants that do not take sufficient measures to prevent infection. She also asked people to refrain from going to other prefectures unless it is necessary or urgent.

The governor asked business owners to follow the existing guidelines. They include measures such as checking the temperatures of staff members, disinfecting stores, and putting up stickers declaring that they are implementing the measures thoroughly. She also asked owners of bars and nightclubs to urge their staff to get tested for the coronavirus.

Koike said the Tokyo Metropolitan Government plans to expand the testing system, and set up a support base to help public health centers that are facing an increased workload.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is currently not asking businesses to close. But Koike said that if the infection spreads further she will urge the central government to revise the special measures law, including imposing penalties on businesses that refuse to comply with requests related to avoiding infections.