Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga issued the declaration at the government task force for the coronavirus. It lasts from Friday until Feb. 7, and centers around asking restaurants and bars to close at 8 p.m. and people to stay home and not mingle in crowds.
Shopping malls and schools will remain open. Movie theaters, museums and other events will be asked to reduce attendance. Places that defy the request will be publicized on a list, while those that comply will be eligible for aid, according to officials.
“I am confident we can overcome this, but I must ask all of you to endure a restricted life for a while longer,” Suga told reporters after the declaration.
“Please take this matter seriously as your own, to protect all precious life, your parents, your grandparents, family and friends, over generations,” Suga said.
Coronavirus cases have been surging in Japan following year-end and New Year’s holidays.
Shigeru Omi, a doctor who heads the government panel on coronavirus measures, described the latest wave as “explosive,” requiring the emergency declaration.
Tokyo has logged record numbers of daily cases for two straight days, after 1,591 on Wednesday. Nationwide, cases have been growing steadily by more than 5,000 a day.
Some experts say Japan should have acted sooner, and a government campaign to promote domestic travel through discounts was a mistake.
Opinion on having eateries close early is mixed, since places could simply get more crowded in earlier hours.
Dr. Hiroshi Nishiura, an expert on infectious diseases, said the rate of increase in number of cases will decline but infections will continue to rise. He believes more drastic action is needed.
Vaccinations are expected to start next month in Japan, with health and essential workers first. The rollout is likely to take months.
Dr. Atsuo Hamada, an expert on infections and professor at Tokyo Medical University Hospital, said curtailing nighttime drinking and dining will help.
“When people go out to eat at night, they tend to get drunk, talk in loud voices and sing so airborne infections spread more quickly,” he said in a recent telephone interview.
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