"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] [COVID-19] Press Conference by the Prime Minister

[Date] January 13, 2021
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

[Opening Statement]

I just convened a meeting of the Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters. The seven prefectures of Tochigi, Gifu, Aichi, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, and Fukuoka will be included in the areas subject to the declaration of the state of emergency, with a duration until February 7, based on the decision taken at the meeting.

Further to the four prefectures already subject to the declaration (Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa), other areas also continue to face pressing circumstances. I am certain that the residents of these areas also feel uneasy about the current situation. I hope to gain your understanding that this is a measure indispensable for turning this severe situation around for the better. We will do whatever we deem necessary in this regard, engaging in all possible means. We are asking you to go through some hardship by having many limitations on your daily lives, but we must overcome that, no matter what. I would sincerely like to ask for your cooperation.

These seven prefectures we added have numerous indicators, including the number of new infection cases and the hospital bed occupancy ratio, that correspond to so-called "Stage 4"; also, large populations are concentrated in the urban centers of the Greater Tokyo area, Kansai area, Chubu area, and Fukuoka Prefecture, and it is imperative that we take measures before infections spread nationwide. Based on these factors, we took the decision, also listening to the opinions of the experts.

We will apply the same measures to the newly added prefectures as those I announced in my previous press conference, namely, the four measures of shortening operating hours of dining and drinking establishments until 8 PM; having the number of people commuting to their workplaces decrease by 70 percent through teleworking; refraining from going out for non-essential, non-urgent reasons, particularly after 8 PM; and limiting the number of people attending sports events or concerts.

Other than these newly added prefectures, in areas where infections are spreading and heading towards "Stage 4," the Government will provide the same assistance as it does to the areas subject to the declaration if they take the same four measures of curtailing the operating hours of dining and drinking establishments and so on, in line with the declaration. By doing so, we will introduce effective measures, without missing the appropriate timing.

A declaration of a state of emergency enables a broad range of measures to be taken, based on the law, and is a powerful means for ensuring thoroughgoing measures to counter infections. At the same time, since it places substantial limits on the daily lives of the citizens, I believe it requires our best judgement as the administration, regarding whether to issue a declaration or when to issue one. On December 31 last year, the number of cases of new infections in Tokyo reached 1,300. Seeing that number, I thought there was no way around introducing more forceful measures. The experts also gave us their recommendation that it was time for a declaration of a state of emergency to be issued. In order to halt the spread of infections no matter what by taking powerful measures at a single stroke, we made a decision to issue the declaration subject to the four prefectures (Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo and Kanagawa). And, today we added areas subject to the declaration in order to avoid infections spreading nationwide.

We will carry out thoroughgoing measures targeting everything that is deemed effective, on the basis of our experiences fighting the virus for around a year to date. In particular, regarding dining and drinking, which have been said since some time ago to have the highest risk of spreading infection, we request dining and drinking establishments to shorten their business hours to 8 PM. Moreover, we ask the citizens to avoid heading out for non-essential, non-urgent reasons not only after 8 PM when dining and drinking establishments close, but also during the daytime. Also, it is a matter of course that, even during daytime hours and evening hours until 8 PM, we want you to avoid dining and drinking situations with a high risk of spreading infections, such as talking in loud voices after drinking alcohol or taking a seat without leaving sufficient space between yourself and other diners.

In order for the measures under this declaration as a whole to have an effect, it is extremely important to ensure the close collaboration between the national and local governments and gain cooperation from the citizens. Yesterday I exchanged views with the governors of Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, and Kanagawa prefectures, and we confirmed we will act in a concerted manner. Going forward, we will establish a liaison meeting of the Government and the prefectures subject to the declaration, including those newly added. Through the discussions held in this liaison meeting, we intend for prefectural governments to carry out measures in response to actual circumstances locally, in order to prevent the spread of infections no matter what. At the same time, the Government will provide necessary support to the maximum possible extent.

We are also working full force to uphold the capacity of our medical system to provide necessary treatment. In Tokyo, with a view to securing hospital beds for coronavirus patients, the national and prefectural governments have formed a united team. Offering the Government's adequate financial support, the team directly contacts hospitals one by one, urging them to allocate beds for coronavirus patients, and has secured 500 beds since the turn of the year. Moving forward, we will undertake the same kind of engagement in other areas as well and thoroughly advance our efforts to secure hospital beds.

As for the vaccine, in order to begin administering it by late February at latest, we will have each local government start preparations, such as setting up the venues for vaccinations. We will do everything in our capacity to extend support, by covering the entire vaccination costs.

Regarding border control measures, at the New Year's press conference, I announced the policy of immediately halting entry to Japan upon new coronavirus variants being discovered within any countries with which we have agreed on a "Business Track" framework. At the same time, we reinforced our screening at our borders and took exhaustive measures to prevent the spread of infections due to entry into Japan.

Thus far there have been no cases of infections with new coronavirus variants confirmed among anyone who has entered Japan from the 11 countries with which we have agreed on "Business Track" or "Residence Track" frameworks. However, in addition to the serious state of infections within Japan at present, recently there have been cases one after the other of a new coronavirus variant confirmed, such as a cluster of patients caused by an individual returning from the UK and a new variant case confirmed from a returnee from Brazil. We take it very seriously that in unease among the public is growing further in light of this situation.

In order to protect the lives and livelihoods of the citizens and, for the sake of prevention, eliminate all range of risks, we will temporarily suspend the frameworks of "Business Track" and "Residence Track" over the duration that the declaration of the state of emergency is in effect. From now, we will temporarily halt new entries to Japan from the 11 countries with which we have agreed on such frameworks, after swiftly completing necessary coordination with them.

Through the decision we took today, major urban areas across the country will be included as areas subject to the four measures of curtailing business hours for dining and drinking establishments until 8 PM, refraining from heading out for non-essential, non-urgent reasons, having 70 percent of the workforce telework, and limiting the number of people allowed to attend events. In order to clear away all manner of risks, in the area of border control we will also suspend the frameworks of "Business Track" and "Residence Track." With this structure of powerful actions, we intend to turn the situation around for the better. Over the duration of these measures until February 7, we ask the citizens to review their own behavior in a thoroughgoing manner.

In particular, the number of young patients in their 30s or below is rising. While many of them are asymptomatic or exhibit only light symptoms, the reality is that young people spread infections unknowingly while out of the house or while dining or drinking. To avoid perpetuating the current situation, it is essential for the citizens, the Government, and local governments to survive this restricted way of living, all looking at the same direction. We will protect the lives and livelihoods of the citizens, engaging in all possible efforts exhaustively. I ask you all for your cooperation once more.