The region remains on alert for a second wave of infections, as Hong Kong extends entry restrictions for non-residents indefinitely and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte approves a longer lockdown.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a report to committee members of the Lower House in Tokyo on April 7, 2020 before declaring a state of emergency due to the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a report to committee members of the Lower House in Tokyo on April 7, 2020 before declaring a state of emergency due to the Covid-19 coronavirus. (John Salangsang/Invision / AFP)

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday declared a month-long state of emergency in Tokyo and six other parts of the country over a spike in coronavirus cases.

"As I decided that a situation feared to gravely affect people's lives and the economy has occurred... I am declaring a state of emergency," Abe said.

The measure falls short of the strict lockdowns seen in other parts of the world but empowers local governors to urge people to stay inside and to call for businesses to close. Takahide Kiuchi, an economist at Nomura Research Institute, said in a recent report that a state of emergency could cause consumer spending to fall nearly $23 billion, leading to a 0.4 percent drop in Japan’s annual GDP.

The announcement follows surges in new cases in Tokyo, including consecutive rises exceeding 100 over the weekend. By Monday there were 1,116 confirmed cases in the metropolitan region of 14 million people. 

Nationwide, Japan has 3,906 confirmed cases, as well as a 712 from a cruise ship quarantined at Yokohama port near Tokyo, with 91 deaths.

Abe repeatedly has said a hard lockdown, like in Italy and France where nobody is supposed to be outside for nonessential reasons, is not envisaged for Japan.

“We can only make a request, but it’s different from lockdowns enforced in France and other countries," he said last week.

Still, the state of emergency could significantly limit the movement of people around and out of the city.

Restricting entry to foreigners

Over in mainland China, there was a drop in new coronavirus cases on Tuesday after the closure of borders to virtually all foreigners to curb imported infections, while the central city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, saw no new deaths for the first time.

China had 32 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Monday, down from 39 cases a day earlier, the National Health Commission said.

All of the 32 cases involved travellers arriving from overseas, compared with 38 imported cases a day earlier. The overall number of imported infections so far stands at 983, the health authority said.

Wuhan, capital of central Hubei province, reported only two new confirmed cases in the past 14 days. It is due to allow people to leave the city on Wednesday for the first time since it was locked down on January 23 to curb the spread of the virus.

The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China stood at 81,740 as of Monday, while 3,331 people have died, according to the health authority.

Wuhan, where daily fatalities had fallen to the single-digits since late March, had no new deaths on Monday.

China reported 30 new asymptomatic cases on Monday, nine of which involved incoming travellers. Of the new asymptomatic cases, 18 were in Hubei province.

As of Monday, 1,033 asymptomatic patients were under medical observation.

Hong Kong will continue to be closed to foreigners, extending the initial two-week entry restrictions on non-residents indefinitely.

Non-residents coming from overseas to Hong Kong by plane will be denied entry, and those coming from mainland China, Macau and Taiwan will be barred from entering if they have been overseas in the past 14 days.

The move to continue shutting out foreigners was announced by the government on Monday and comes as the number of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong rose to 915. 

Hong Kong has seen a rise in the number of imported cases in the city, and its confirmed cases have more than doubled in the last two weeks.

On Sunday, Hong Kong’s airport saw only 813 arrivals, a drop of close to 82 percent compared to the period before the restrictions were put in place on March 24.

Hong Kong’s entry restrictions exempt certain groups, including aircraft crew, government officials on duty, spouses and minor children of Hong Kong residents as well as personnel engaged by the government in anti-epidemic work.

Singapore closes workplaces in virus fight

In Singapore, the usually bustling business district was almost deserted on Tuesday as most workplaces in the city-state closed to stem the spread of the coronavirus after a surge in cases.

The financial hub has won praise for using a tough regime of testing and tracing contacts of the sick to keep its outbreak largely in check, but has seen a jump in new infections in recent days.

Authorities previously resisted the kind of draconian measures seen in worse-hit countries – but have now ordered the closure of all businesses deemed non-essential as well as schools, and have asked people to stay home.

The city-state reported 66 more Covid-19 cases on Monday, bringing its total so far to 1,375, including six deaths.

While these figures are low compared to many other countries, authorities nevertheless decided to take action after a rise in locally transmitted cases in the city of 5.7 million.

Extending the lockdown

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday approved the extension of lockdown and home quarantine measures covering more than half of the population, a crisis panel official said, in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The Enhanced Community Quarantine was due to end next week but would be extended until April 30, Karlo Nograles, a cabinet secretary, told a regular news conference.

Policies restricting movement and gatherings have been in place in and around the capital Manila since nearly a month ago, in response to confirmation of the first domestic transmission. The Philippines was among the first countries to adopt strict home quarantine measures.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies