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The Japanese government has extended its second state of emergency for two more weeks to March 21, targeting the greater Tokyo area. The declaration covers four prefectures: Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba. It was scheduled to expire on March 7.
Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide said on March 5 that the two-week extension is necessary to contain the virus and assesses the situation more carefully. He said criteria such as daily new cases and hospital capacity have improved, but not enough to allow for the declaration to be lifted.
The state of emergency has been in effect since January 7. It has been extended twice in the greater Tokyo area. Prefectures elsewhere -- Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Aichi, Gifu, Fukuoka and Tochigi -- have lifted the measure.
*Updated on March 8, 2021
Here's a brief outline of the state of emergency and how it affects daily life.
Less expansive but more intensive
A state of emergency declaration gives prefectural governors the legal authority to ask residents to cooperate with anti-coronavirus measures. Prime Minister Suga said on January 4 that the second declaration would be less expansive but more intensive than the one instituted last spring.
Curbing the spread of infection at drinking and dining establishments, which experts say are high-risk transmission settings, is the key focus.
"We are determined to improve the situation within the next month," Suga said on January 7 when he announced the declaration.
Tokyo and neighboring prefectures-- Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba.
Residents in the affected areas are asked to refrain from all nonessential excursions.
Restaurants, cafes, bars, karaoke
All drinking and dining establishments are asked to close by 8 p.m. with alcoholic beverages served only between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.
The government provides a subsidy of 60,000 yen, or roughly 580 dollars, per day for each establishment that complies with the request.
Takeout and delivery can continue unrestricted.
Establishments that don't follow the request could be fined.
The declaration limits crowds at spectator events to half the venue capacity, or 5,000, whichever is smaller. Organizers have to finish the event by 8 p.m.
The government asks companies to ensure 70% or more of their staff are working from home.
The chief of the Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren, says companies are encouraged to promote teleworking on top of efforts they have already undertaken.
As an example, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation plans to expand its work-from-home program. It wants to reduce the number of employees in its Tokyo area offices to 30% or less of the total workforce. The company is also suspending business travel to and from the affected prefectures and is asking staff to cancel meetings that are conducted over meals, as well as personal social events.
The declaration gives governors the authority to close prefectural high schools and make requests regarding private schools and elementary and junior high schools.
The government is not requesting a widespread shutdown of schools as such a decision would impact the progress of education, and the mental and physical health of students.
That is in stark contrast to last spring when schools across the country were requested to shut during the first wave of the outbreak.
Japan's national university entrance exam went ahead as scheduled on January 16, with anti-infection measures in place.
The government is requesting nursing facilities to continue operations.
Supermarkets and convenience stores
Supermarkets and convenience stores are running as usual in principle.
Facilities listed below are also requested to close by 8 p.m. If they provide alcoholic drinks, that service should end by 7 p.m.
- Entertainment facilities excluding those permitted to provide food and drink
- Theaters, viewing places, movie theaters, and entertainment halls
- Public halls and showrooms
- Shops or service outlets with floor space exceeding 1,000 square meters
- Spaces to use for gatherings at hotels and inns
- Sports facilities and playgrounds
- Museums and libraries
During Japan's first state of emergency, many amusement facilities, movie theaters and department stores were requested to close. That is not the case this time around.
Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea has shortened park opening hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. until March 7. Sanrio Puroland is also running restricted hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., until February 28.
Revision of anti-virus laws
The state of emergency declaration had significantly less legal authority in Japan than in other countries. As such, its success in containing the virus relied on voluntary cooperation rather than enforceable lockdowns. This raised concerns that the declaration will not be enough to drive down the number of cases.
With that in mind, Japanese lawmakers enacted a revision to the existing special anti-coronavirus law and other related laws on February 3, allowing for stricter enforcement. Those revisions come into effect on February 13.
They allow officials to fine people or businesses that break the rules. That includes those who test positive for the virus and are told to check into a hospital, but refuse. Individuals who lie to health officials or refuse their inquiries will also face punishment.
Government efforts to stem the spread of the virus include shortening operating hours for bars and restaurants. Businesses that don't comply can be fined up to about 3,000 dollars.
Prefectural governors will also be able to enact their own anti-virus measures even before the central government declares a state of emergency.
This information is updated on March 8, 2021.