Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga confirmed Friday the government is extending a COVID-19 state of emergency in the Tokyo region and surrounding areas for another two weeks in hopes of relieving the strain on hospitals.
Speaking to reporters following a meeting of the government’s COVID-19 task force, Suga said the emergency will be extended to March 21 for Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures. The state of emergency had been scheduled to end Sunday.
Suga said medical systems in the region were still burdened with COVID-19 patients and more hospital beds are needed. He said the extension will also allow the government to better assess the situation.
Suga had declared a month-long emergency on January 7 for Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba that was later extended through March 7.
An emergency that applied to other urban prefectures was lifted last week, underscoring the government's eagerness to allow businesses to return to normal as soon as possible.
The non-binding state of emergency asks that restaurants, bars and other businesses voluntarily close at 8 p.m. Japan has never had a mandatory lockdown but has managed to keep infections relatively low with social distancing and other voluntary measures.
Tokyo on Friday reported 301 new cases, up from 278 the day before, raising its total to 112,925.
Nationwide, Japan reported more than 436,000 cases and about 8,000 deaths as of Thursday.