Japan considers new COVID emergency declaration after spike in cases

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Japanese officials may call a COVID-19 emergency declaration after a spike in infections, the country’s top pandemic response leader said Saturday.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters that the situation in Tokyo is so dire that a national state of emergency may be reinstated.

He said health experts will be consulted, but to start, restaurants and karaoke parlors in the Tokyo area may be asked to close at 8 p.m., while businesses that serve alcohol should close at 7 p.m., he said.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has resisted calls to return to the national state of emergency enacted in April during the pandemic’s first wave. That edict relied more on voluntary closures and restrictions rather than the strict lockdowns imposed in parts of Europe and the US.

Tokyo raised its COVID-19 alert level to its highest measure on Dec. 17. New infections in the capital increased to a record 1,337 on Dec. 31. A nationwide record was also set on Dec. 31 with 4,520 new cases.

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