Tokyo and the Osaka area in western Japan hunkered down yesterday as officials urged people to stay indoors to prevent a potential emergency, but some were carrying on as normal.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s plea for the tens of millions of people in the capital and surrounding regions to avoid non-essential, non-urgent outings until April 12, and particularly this weekend, followed a surge in coronavirus infections this week that she said put Tokyo on the brink of an emergency.
Koike urged people to avoid the national pastime of congregating to drink and watch cherry blossoms as they hit their peak in the capital, saying on Friday: “The cherry blossoms will bloom again next year.”
Infections in Japan have climbed to more than 1,400, with 47 deaths, excluding those from a cruise ship quarantined last month. Hit early by the coronavirus in its initial spread from China, Japan had seen a more gradual rise than the recent surge in much of Europe and the US.
This week, however, saw an acceleration that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called “a national crisis.”
Infections on Friday rose by a daily record of 102, public broadcaster NHK said.
Tokyo reported 40 new cases on Friday, bringing its total to 299.
While those figures are not high for a city of nearly 14 million, with many millions more in neighboring suburbs, experts warn of a high risk of an explosive rise in infections, as authorities have not been able to track all the contacts of more than half the newest cases.
The government has deployed the military to greater Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda airports to assist in virus screenings and the transport of people placed in quarantine, NHK said.
The voluntary calls by Koike and other leaders for people to stay at home compares with the more rigorous lockdowns in major cities in Italy, Britain, France, Spain and the US.
In a quiet neighborhood in central Tokyo, the scene was typical of a Saturday morning. Some people were jogging and walking their dogs. A few stopped to pray at a local shrine. Traffic was brisk on local roads.
“I’m a little worried, but I have an appointment today, which is why I’m outside,” said a 41-year- old man walking down the street, who declined to be named.
“It’s not something that I can’t cancel, but I do have to meet someone. I will be riding the train later,” he said.
Trains were not empty, but were far less crowded than on a normal weekend. Some department stores, movie theaters, museums and parks closed, but many supermarkets and convenience stores were open as usual.
In Setagaya, a popular residential area in western Tokyo, many restaurants and shops were shut, although those that were open were doing brisk business, including an Italian restaurant that was filled with some young families and older couples.
Nearby, laborers worked on a construction site as if it were a normal day.
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,