On New Year’s Eve, Tokyo confirmed 1,337 new Covid-19 infections, the highest single-day record for 2020 since the beginning of the pandemic. It was the first time more than 1,000 were recorded in one day, but it was far from unexpected. Infections have been rapidly rising in the country since late October, with infections in Tokyo, Osaka, Kanagawa, Saitama, Hokkaido, Osaka, Aichi and other prefectures reaching new daily highs every week.
The 1,337, however, was a number the government could no longer fail to acknowledge as medical experts across the country continued to speak out of the very realistic danger of a collapsing medical system. Nor was the recent formal request submitted by the four governors of Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba calling on the central government to declare a state of emergency to stop the virus from spreading further.
As a result of this, on Monday, January 4, 2021, in his first speech of the year, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga addressed the country saying, “It is a fact that the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus has not declined but remained high in Tokyo and the three adjacent prefectures. Taking this seriously, we thought we need to issue a stronger message.” The “stronger message” Suga spoke about was the plan to introduce a second state of emergency to curb the surge of coronavirus cases. He also said, however, that the measure should be implemented “in a limited and focused manner,” hinting that the new state of emergency would be less-strict than the first one implemented in April 2020.
The second state of emergency was declared on January 7. Here are 10 of the basic questions and answers you should know of how it will impact your life in Japan.
Please note that this information is correct as of January 13. It will be updated accordingly as more official information is released.
Q1. When will the new state of emergency start and when will it end?
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a second state of emergency on the evening of Thursday, January 7. It will come into effect on Friday, January 8 and will last until February 7. The actual period may change depending on further Covid-19 developments. Further decisions of whether the state of emergency could be lifted as planned will be made by February 6.
Q2. What prefectures will be affected by the new state of emergency?
The state of emergency is introduced in Tokyo and three of its neighboring prefectures, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba. [UPDATE] On Wednesday, January 13, Prime Minister Suga declared a state of emergency in seven additional prefectures: Tochigi Osaka, Gifu, Aichi, Hyogo, Kyoto and Fukuoka.
Q3. What will happen under the new state of emergency?
- Dining and drinking establishments in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba will be asked to close by 8pm, further cutting their operating hours from the 10pm currently requested. Alcohol serving will stop at 7 pm. The step will then target all dining facilities including those which do not serve liquor.
- Karaoke parlors, live houses, restaurants, department stores, pachinko stores, game arcades, clubs, gambling shops and hostess clubs will all be asked to close by 8pm.
- Residents will be asked to refrain from nonessential trips outside the house, especially after 8pm.
- Companies will be asked to encourage teleworking and reduce their commuting staff by 70 percent.
- Concerts, sport events and other events will be conducted within restricted conditions, including keeping audiences under 50 percent of the venue capacity and conducting the events by 8 pm.
Q4. Will schools / kindergartens / nurseries close?
Public schools, kindergartens and nurseries will not close under the new state of emergency. National exams will also be carried out as planned.
Q5. How will the new state of emergency differ from the initial one last spring?
Japan’s first state of emergency was declared in Tokyo and six prefectures in early April last year during Japan’s first wave of infections. It was then expanded nationwide later that month, affecting school, sports, cultural and economic activities. It was lifted in steps the following month as coronavirus cases subsided.
This time, the second state of emergency is implemented only in 11 prefectures and will mainly target dining facilities. PM Suga said that the state of emergency this time will be implemented “in a limited and focused manner.” Schools and major cultural facilities will not be asked to close this time.
Q6. What will happen to the Go To Travel Campaign?
On December 14, 2020, the government announced that the “Go To Travel” tourism promotion campaign will be halted nationwide from December 28 to January 11 amid a surge in coronavirus cases across the country. On Monday, PM Suga said that “it is difficult to restart it if a state of emergency is declared.” While no concrete information has been released yet, as of present it is believed that the campaign will remain suspended until the state of emergency is lifted.
Q7. Will restaurants be compensated for cutting their business hours?
The central government will provide a daily compensation of ¥60,000 (maximum 1.8 million per month) to all restaurant and dining facilities who will be cutting their hours to 8pm under the new state of emergency.
For information on other compensation from the government, see here.
Q8. Will any financial penalties be imposed to residents for leaving their houses?
While residents will be requested to cooperate as much as possible and refrain from leaving their homes during the state of emergency, as of present it is believed that no penalties will be imposed on those who, for various reasons, are unable to cooperate. Penalties, however, may be imposed to facilities not cooperating with the government’s requests, including disclosing their names.
Q9. Can people go to work during the state of emergency?
Companies will be asked to cooperate by further promoting teleworking during the state of emergency and reducing their commuting staff by 70 percent. However, for companies that are not able to implement teleworking due to the nature of their work, there will not be specific restrictions. For those who will be still commuting to work, it is highly encouraged to adjust one’s work schedule to avoid rush hours or crowded commute as much as possible.
Q10. When will we have further information about the end of the state of emergency?
Prime Minister Suga is expected to provide more information on whether the state of emergency can be lifted or not by early February.
For the latest Covid-19 updates from Japan, see here.