Jan. 7 (UPI) — Japan declared a state of emergency as COVID-19 cases and related deaths mount to record levels in the country, but critics say the measures are “too little, too late.”
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Thursday the emergency declaration applies to Tokyo and surrounding prefectures, citing a “serious situation” and a “very great sense of crisis.”
The emergency declaration, which goes into effect on Friday and could be lifted by Feb. 7, requires all restaurants to abide by an 8 p.m. curfew. The policy also aims to reduce the population of commuting workers by 70% and apply new restrictions on sporting events and concerts.
Japan has been reporting thousands of new cases daily since New Year’s Day. On Thursday, authorities confirmed about 7,500 new cases nationwide. The Tokyo metropolitan reported 2,447 new infections, according to CNN on Thursday. Japan has reported 252,317 cases since the start of the pandemic.
Toshio Nakagawa, president of the Japan Medical Association, said the new policy might not be enough.
“The reality is [the country] is already in a state of medical collapse,” Nakagawa said during a press conference. “Depending on the future of infections, we have to consider expanding the national declaration of emergency.”
Suga, who is under criticism for delaying an emergency declaration despite pleas from politicians like Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike in December, is increasingly coming under fire from citizens who say the government procrastinated as cases climbed.
Tadashi Fushimi, a protester in Tokyo, told South Korean network KBS the policies have “failed” and led to the surge in infections.
“Many people desire COVID-19 tests, but they are in a situation where they cannot get tested,” the Japanese protester said.
Japan rescheduled the 2020 Summer Olympics last year, but the country may be faced with a tough choice despite plans to go ahead with the Games in July. The plan is to hold a pared-back Olympics in the summer, according to CNN.