From London to Tokyo and across the choppy seas, there has been a frightful resurgence of the dreadful coronavirus.
The government of the Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and its three neighbouring prefectures on Thursday, nine months after the first coronavirus-related declaration in April 2020.
A dreadful situation calls for drastic action, and so it has been in two very different parts of the world. Tokyo reported more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, about 1.5 times higher than the previous day.
The Osaka prefectural government has confirmed more than 600 daily cases for the first time; it has pledged to ask the administration in the nation’s capital to issue the same declaration for the prefecture. It is pretty obvious that the alarming rise in the graph of the affected and casualties could have prompted the Suga administration to promulgate the emergency.
To the consternation of some, marked by increasing concern over the loss of livelihood and income, the digital display on a building showed the news of the declaration at Tokyo’s iconic Shibuya Crossing. A piece of breaking news has quite totally shocked the nation’s populace.
The subtext must be that on the first anniversary of the outbreak so to speak, the latest coronavirus surge has unnerved governments in different parts of the world. An enormous responsibility thus devolves on Japan’s new Prime Minister, who recently took over from Shinzo Abe, indeed when Covid-19 was at its peak almost throughout the world.
“The last time the previous state of emergency was declared, I was desperate not to get infected, but this time I’m more worried about my family’s finances,” was the response of a housewife in Tokyo. In parallel, rail, air and highway connections to Hebei in China have been suspended and prevention and control measures tightened. Japan’s emergency order is not repressive, The declaration carries no penalties; it will work as an earnest appeal by the Prime Minister as the country struggles to reconstruct its blighted economy. The entities that defy the request will be publicised in a list.
At another remove, those that comply will be eligible for assistance. Shopping malls and schools will remain open while film theatres and museums will be asked to curb attendance. Efforts are under way to get the vaccine approved and delivered. “Please take this matter seriously as your own, to protect all precious life, your parents, your grandparents, family and friends over generations,” was Mr Suga’s appeal to the nation on Thursday.
The appeal is suitably robust. Japan’s Prime Minister has spoken appropriately at a time when across the world a largely rudderless United States has clocked a record 3,998 deaths and nearly 300,000 afflictions on a single day but appears so trapped by its politics that it has been forced to abandon governance.