Japan Considering Virus Emergency as Cases Surge, Suga Says

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is considering declaring a state of emergency to stem a surge in coronavirus infections that has sent the country’s number of confirmed cases to record highs in recent days.

Suga told a news conference Monday the government will finalize the extent of the emergency declaration shortly as it pushes to strengthen measures against the virus. He also urged people to avoid unnecessary outings and said he will ask parliament to amend an act on virus management when it convenes this month.

The prime minister has been in a bind over the declaration. He has so far held off on the move that could slow his push to keep the economy going while containing the virus. But he also seen his support rate slip with respondents in surveys saying he needs to do more to halt the spread of infections.

Japanese stocks declined on the first trading day of the year following reports of a state of emergency, with the benchmark Topix Index falling as much as 1.6%. Tokyo Disney Resort operator Oriental Land Co. weighed on the gauge the most, falling 3.3% in morning trading.

297,491 in U.S.Most new cases today

+12% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-0.​7893 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

3.​7% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), Nov.

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Suga’s move on the declaration came after Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and the governors of the neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa requested at the weekend that the central government take the step. The Tokyo government plans to ask bars and restaurants to stay open no later than 8 p.m., rather than the current 10 p.m., starting on Thursday, the Nikkei newspaper reported Monday citing people familiar with the plan.

The capital recorded 816 new coronavirus cases Sunday, with serious cases topping 100 for the first time since the state of emergency was lifted in May, according to several media reports.

Suga said in late December the central government was considering amending a Special Measures Act on virus management to introduce penalties for bars and restaurants that don’t comply with instructions to close early.

The change would need to be approved by parliament when it convenes on Jan. 18, and the government is hoping to complete the process by the end of January, Jiji Press said on Sunday, citing unidentified sources close to Suga.

The state of emergency currently allows local governments to direct businesses to close and to urge residents to stay in their homes, though there are no penalties for failure to comply. Civil liberties protections enshrined in Japan’s Constitution prevent implementing a lockdown enforced by police action.

Japan last declared one in April but lifted the measures several weeks later as cases dropped.

Tokyo’s Koike is also studying measures to assist businesses that comply with shortened hours of operation, FNN reported on Sunday, without saying where it got the information.

Japan has had by far the fewest Covid-19 cases of any Group of Seven country, tallying fewer infections in all of 2020 than the U.S. has beenposting in recent days.

— With assistance by Shoko Oda

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