Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the government is considering declaring a state of emergency for Tokyo and three surrounding areas after an alarming uptick of new coronavirus infections.
The health ministry recorded 3,150 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, including 51 deaths, bringing the total number of infections to 244,559, including 3,612 fatalities. The Japanese capital alone set a single-day record of 1,337 new cases last Thursday, New Year’s Eve.
The emergency declaration would cover Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa.
Then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe formally declared a 30-day state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures last April as coronavirus infections began rising during the early days of the pandemic. The decree stopped short of imposing a legally binding nationwide lockdown, due to Japan’s post-World War Two constitution, which weighs heavily in favor of civil liberties.
Prime Minister Suga also told reporters Monday the government has moved up the beginning of the national vaccination effort to late February, with frontline medical workers and the elderly given first priority.
Suga also vowed that the Summer Olympic Games, postponed from last year because of the pandemic, will be held as scheduled between July 23 and August 8. He said staging the Games would serve as proof that people “have overcome the coronavirus.”