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Japan declares state of emergency in Tokyo, three neighboring prefectures

Pedestrians wearing protective masks, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, walk out of a station during a commuting hour at a business district in Tokyo, Japan, Jan 7, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency in the Tokyo metropolitan area including Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures on Thursday, authorizing tougher measures to fight a resurgence in COVID-19 infections.

The state of emergency will be effective from Friday to Feb. 7, with measures including urging people to stay at home and calling for restaurants and bars to stop serving alcohol by 7 pm and close by 8 pm.

Gyms, department stores and entertainment facilities will also be subject to shorter operation hours.

As the government has set the goal of reducing the number of people in the office by 70 percent, it also urged companies to have employees work from home or stagger their shifts.

Meanwhile, events will be capped at 5,000 people or 50 percent of venue capacity.

Tokyo reported a record 2,447 new daily COVID-19 infections on Thursday.

The latest number of infections in Tokyo far eclipses the previous record of 1,591 cases recorded the previous day in the capital of 14 million.

COVID-19 cases in these metropolitan regions have been consistently rising since mid-November, with medical experts warning that the healthcare system could collapse if the virus continues to run rampant.

Japan on Wednesday, meanwhile, reported 6,004 new daily COVID-19 cases, marking the first time new cases have topped the 6,000-mark and booking the highest number of daily infections on record since the outbreak of the pandemic here.

The latest surge in nationwide cases far surpasses the previous record of 4,916 new cases booked on Tuesday.

Japan's central prefecture of Aichi saw its cases rise by 364 on Wednesday as its Governor Hideaki Omura told a press conference that "if this trend continues for a few days" he might ask the central government to expand the virus emergency to cover his prefecture.

A state of emergency was first declared in Tokyo and six other prefectures on April 7 last year. It was later expanded to cover the whole country before being lifted in late May.