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State of emergency to begin in major Japanese cities

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State of emergency to begin in major Japanese cities

Photo: Satoko Kawasaki

Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo will enter a state of emergency today in an attempt to combat surging COVID-19 infections.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the new measures–which require establishments including restaurants, bars and karaoke parlors to shut down or limit their hours–on Friday. The restrictions are expected to last until May 11. The restrictions are likely to further hamper the recovery of the pandemic-ravaged Japanese economy, which was already slow to rally after the mass lockdowns of 2020. Likewise, Japanese citizens frequently flouted prior emergency measures leading to increased spread.

Expect the government to strictly enforce the new measures after passing laws in February allowing authorities to issue binding orders for nonessential businesses to shorten their hours or close. These measures have prompted indignation from business owners accustomed to Suga’s previous hesitance to impose restrictions. Some have accused the prime minister of prioritizing Japan’s preparedness for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics over the economic welfare of Japanese citizens. While these criticisms have been acknowledged by Suga, they are unlikely to prompt him to lift the state of emergency earlier than expected.

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