Japan’s second emergency will last for a month, but public health experts have expressed doubts that four weeks will be enough time to slow down the coronavirus, which is already spreading at an alarming rate.
With residents increasingly faced with viral fatigue and no legal framework to enforce compliance, the country may struggle to quickly lower the infection trend, experts say. Japan has reported new daily records over the past two days, especially around the capital of Tokyo.
“I don’t know if things can get better within a month,” Hitoshi Oshitani, a professor of virology at Tohoku University and a member of a panel of government advisory experts, told Bloomberg News. “It’s definitely a lot harder to control what’s going on today than what happens in summer.”
Japan has enacted a more limited emergency this time, aimed primarily at reducing restaurant hours and encouraging remote working. Current measures apply only to Tokyo’s capital and the three surrounding prefectures. Cinemas, gyms, karaoke rooms and theme parks, which were closed last spring due to an emergency, cut time and still allow large events.
Areas in an emergency situation must appear in “Phase 4”, the highest government designation for an epidemic in order to clear the condition. At this stage, factors such as medical capacity, number of patients, test positive rates, and weekly increase in new infections are looked at. Experts will continue to look at the data to determine which areas meet which steps, they said.
Earlier this week, Mr. Shigeru Omi, chairman of an expert panel advising the government that it would be “impossible” for Japan to get out of an emergency within a month, changed his tone by briefing the media with Prime Minister Yoshihide. Sugar Thursday.
“It’s not that easy,” Ohmi said, “but I believe we can reduce the infection to three levels within a month if everyone does their best.” Omi said that people should follow the proposed measures to stay home and not eat and drink at night, but it is hard to stop young people in such a place where the virus is spreading the epidemic.
Future legal changes will also be needed, including the ability to sophisticate the facility to reject requests for closure and formalize payments for cooperation, he added. The government plans to revise the bill related to the reopening of the National Assembly on January 18th.
The emergency, enacted by Japan last spring, began with a declaration of seven prefectures. It was later expanded nationwide and the period was extended and phased out until the end of May.
Japan, which was initially praised for its ability to contain the virus without strict containment, has emerged as a challenge to its “living with the virus” strategy as winter approaches. Cases started to increase nationwide in November and surged last week, especially in areas around Tokyo. Leaders in other regions, including the industrial center of Aichi and the business hub Osaka, have already suggested that an emergency report may need to be requested as the incident has already surged.
The country struggled to gather public cooperation in the same way it did in spring. Officials are regretting that concerns about the virus are decreasing, and many bars and restaurants that have already taken a lookout in the past year may be reluctant to cooperate with requests for closure.
The serious situation in Tokyo is likely due to the lack of stricter measures in early December, Oshitani said. Areas including Osaka and Hokkaido, along with social groups and workplaces that hold traditional year-end parties, have been asked to close the restaurant until 9pm early or completely closed as alcohol and dining are in high season.
“In December, Tokyo was unable to take aggressive action. This is probably why we are seeing an increasing trend, especially in the Tokyo metropolitan area,” said Oshitani. “Because of the party season, it was important to take more proactive steps in December.”
Tokyo authorities have asked people to avoid these celebrations, but their effectiveness has been limited. According to data from the Virus Task Force, nightlife in Osaka and Hokkaido has declined sharply since the request for closure, but traffic actually increased in Tokyo.
Oshitani said he hopes that because January and February tend to be quiet social periods in Japan, people will stay home and listen to calls to slow the spread of the virus.
“I believe we can still control the situation,” he said. “It depends entirely on people’s behavior changes.”