Japan declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and in three nearby regions on Thursday as coronavirus infections increased, which in the capital broke a new daily record with 2,447.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga issued the statement at a meeting of the government pandemic task force. It will be in force until February 7 and focuses on asking bars and restaurants to close at 8:00 PM, and the population to stay home and not mix with crowds.
The new measures do not imply sanctions but are an important request as the country juggles to keep its economy active.
Shopping centers and schools will remain open. Cinemas, museums and other events will be asked to reduce their capacity. According to officials, the places that challenge the request will appear published in a list while those that comply with it will be able to request aid.
"I'm sure we can get through this, but I must ask everyone to endure a life with restrictions for a little longer," Suga told reporters after the statement.
The leader also promised more aid for hospitals that care for patients with COVID-19. The military is ready to help, and efforts are underway to authorize a vaccine and receive the doses, he added.
Tokyo has been breaking its record for infections for two days after registering 1,591 on Wednesday. Nationally, cases follow a steady upward trend with more than 5,000 per day.
Some experts say that Japan should have acted sooner and that the government campaign to promote domestic tourism by offering discounts was a mistake.
Meanwhile, China imposed restrictions on Hebei, a northern province where coronavirus cases have more than doubled in a region near Beijing, which is scheduled to hold some tests of the Winter Olympics next year.
Rail, air, and road connections to Hebei's capital Shijiazhuang, a city of at least 10 million people, were suspended, and control and prevention measures were strengthened in urban communities and towns in the area. Classes were suspended, and the university residences were isolated.
The National Health Commission confirmed 51 new cases in the Hebei region on Thursday, bringing the total registered since Sunday to 90. Most of the patients were in Shijiazhuang, although there were also infections in Xingtai city.
The authorities imposed similar measures in Shenyang and Dalian cities in Liaoning province, just to the north.
Alert to a possible new wave of infections, China recommends not traveling during the Lunar New Year holiday in February and starting school holidays a week earlier than usual.
The increase in infections comes as China and the World Health Organization negotiate the terms of the visit of WHO researchers analyzing the origins of the coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan, a city in the center of the country, at the end of 2019.
China has reported a total of 87,278 COVID-19 cases and 4,634 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
South Korea said it would extend its ban on Great Britain flights by two more weeks until January 21. Authorities reported on Thursday the discovery of three more cases of the coronavirus variant discovered in the European nation, which is more contagious, for a total of 14. In addition, a patient with the South African variant was identified.
As of Friday, all foreigners who want to enter the country must present a negative virus detection test.
The country reported 870 new infections on Thursday, the third day in a row with fewer than 1,000, for a total of 66,688, with 1,046 deaths.