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Tokyo and neighboring prefectures seek emergency declaration over coronavirus surge

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japantimes– The governors of Tokyo and three prefectures neighboring the capital on Saturday urged the central government to declare a state of emergency following a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

The governors of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures joined Tokyo in making the request.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters at a briefing after meeting the governors that the government would need to hear from experts before deciding on whether to make an emergency declaration.

The four governors met with Nishimura, the minister in charge of the government’s coronavirus response, for three hours.

The meeting came as Tokyo reported 814 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, two days after the capital saw a record 1,337 infections. Among the daily total Saturday, 118 cases involved people age 65 or older while the number of severely ill patients, based on city’s standards, came to 94, up eight from the previous day.

On Thursday, Tokyo logged a record 1,337 new infections, exceeding the 1,000 mark for the first time since the pandemic began. A nationwide record was also set Thursday, with 4,520 new cases.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has resisted calls to reinstate a national state of emergency, which the government had instituted in April during an earlier wave of the pandemic.

It relied on voluntary business closures and travel restrictions rather than the sort of rigid lockdown measures seen in parts of Europe and the United States.

Tokyo raised its COVID-19 alert level to its highest measure on Dec. 17 and has requested restaurants and other businesses to close by 10 p.m.