Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike on Thursday urged the public to cooperate in fighting the coronavirus as the city raised its alert to the highest level.
Speaking at a news conference after meeting experts on Tokyo's coronavirus panel, Koike said the city would secure more beds for patients and hotel rooms for those with less serious symptoms before infections climb further.
Tokyo reported a record high 534 coronavirus cases on Thursday.
"We must stop further escalation of the infections, no matter what," Koike told reporters. She expressed concerns about rising infections among elderly people, who are at high risk of becoming seriously ill when infected and could strain the medical system.
Koike held up a sign showing the kanji ko, meaning small or short. She emphasized that everybody should observe the 5 “kos” when dining out or drinking — meeting in small groups (limited to four), using small plates to avoid sharing chopsticks or glasses, quickly leaving after eating, keeping a mask on in between eating or drinking, and speaking in a small (or low) voice.
"Your cooperation determines our fate," Koike said. "The key is not to have serious cases and that's the red line."
After Japan issued nonbinding stay-at-home and business closure requests in the spring, the number of cases leveled off, even as many people still commuted, picnicked in parks and dined at restaurants that stayed open. During a surge in the summer, Japan saw larger number of daily infections, but serious cases and deaths remained low.
The nationwide spike in cases now, especially in the populated Tokyo capital region and Hokkaido in the north, is alarming experts ahead of an upcoming three-day weekend and the winter holiday season, typically filled with travel and parties.
Prime Minister Suga, meanwhile, instructed cabinet ministers to do their utmost to tamp down on infections, but he said his government's Go To Travel campaign and Go To Eats dining incentives will continue.
Japan Medical Association President Toshio Nakagawa urged Tokyo residents to stay home over the coming long weekend.
Economy Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura has said that groups in the service industry are revising their safety guidelines to step up preventive measures at restaurants and bars.© Japan Today/The Associated Press