Japan’s COVID-19 numbers soar, but leaders refrain from declaring second state of emergency

Japan saw 1,301 new coronavirus cases on July 30 breaking a record set just one day earlier. But the government is so far opting against a second nationwide state of emergency.

At a news conference on Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide gave the same line he had used a day earlier: "There are alarming situations in some parts of Japan, but these are not circumstances for the government to declare another state of emergency."

Regionally, Tokyo has the most cases, adding a daily record 367 on Thursday. That was nearly 30% of the nationwide tally that day.

Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko is asking people in the capital to refrain from dining out, to stay away from nightlife districts, to avoid socializing with multiple people, and drinking alcohol in bars.

Koike met with Tokyo officials and health experts on Thursday. The meeting heard that about nearly a quarter of the positive cases on July 28 were attributed to dining out.

Koike is asking karaoke parlors and other establishments that serve alcohol to limit their opening hours to 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., from August 3 through 31. The metropolitan government says it will give 200,000 yen compensation, or about $1,900, to all owners that comply.

But Koike says she isn’t looking for any businesses to suspend their operations entirely. "It's not realistic to completely stop, considering how long we have to battle the virus,” she says.

Kitamura Ryohei runs a bar in the capital’s Shibuya district. He has decided to follow the request and limit his opening hours, saying, "it can't be helped given the fact that cases are increasing." But he says it will be even more difficult to stay in business because he can’t stay open during peak hours.

"The money the Tokyo government plans to offer us isn't enough to make up for the loss," he says.

Bar owner Kitamura Ryohei says the shorter hours will be a blow to restaurants, and many may end up with financial problems.

Other regional leaders are taking similar steps. In Osaka, governor Yoshimura Hirofumi is asking people to avoid drinking alcohol together or socializing in groups of five people or more.

Osaka recorded 221 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, the first time the number broke the 200 mark. People in their 20s accounted for more than 40 percent of the total.

Yoshimura says he believes one of the main ways the virus is spreading is via young people partying. He is calling on them to change their behavior.

Okinawa Governor Tamaki Denny is asking bars and restaurants in the downtown areas of prefectural capital Naha City to close for two weeks.

The island region has reported record numbers of new cases on four consecutive days, reaching 49 on Wednesday.

The cumulative number of positive cases in Japan was 35,521 as of July 30. The death toll stood at 1,020.