Japan declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and three nearby areas on Thursday as coronavirus cases continue to surge, hitting a daily record of 2,447 in the capital.
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 pm and people to stay home and not mingle in crowds.
The declaration carries no penalties. But it works as a strong request while Japan juggles to keep its economy going.
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 endure a restricted life for a while longer,” Suga told reporters after the declaration.
He promised more aid for hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. The Japanese military is ready to help and efforts are underway to get a vaccine approved and delivered, he added.
Coronavirus cases have been surging in Japan following year-end and New Year’s holidays.
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.
A similar state of emergency was issued last April through late May and was eventually widened to apply nationwide.
Some 250,000 cases have been confirmed nationwide with more than 3,700 deaths, according to the Health Ministry. Hospitals are getting stretched thin.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and the heads of neighboring Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures asked the government for the emergency declaration over the weekend.
“We need to now recognize that virus infections have entered a totally new stage,” she said. “Tokyo is making the protection of human life a top priority.”