All national dailies reported today that the GOJ ended the COVID-19 state of emergency for Tokyo and its three neighboring prefectures yesterday, quoting Prime Minister Suga as saying during an LDP convention: “We are determined to prevent a resurgence by remaining vigilant and closely monitoring the new strains.” He asked the public to keep practicing social distancing and other mitigation protocols.
The papers said signs of a resurgence have already been emerging across Japan, with the seven-day rolling average of the number of new patients per day nationwide standing at 1,254 as of March 20, up almost 10% from a week ago. Cases are rising not only in Osaka, Hyogo, and other urban prefectures, but also in rural areas such as Miyagi, Yamagata, and Okinawa. The dailies expressed concern that the UK variant may soon be the dominant form of the virus, with Sankei saying that the number of patients infected with the UK and other emerging strains has increased by about 50% every week.
According to the results of a public opinion survey conducted by Asahi over the weekend, half of the public considered the lifting of the state of emergency “premature,” while 32% thought it was “appropriate.” Support for the Suga cabinet rose 6 points from a month ago to 40% whereas nonsupport stood at 39%, down 4 points. The daily said cabinet approval appears to be closely connected to the public’s evaluation of the GOJ’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
In a related story, Sankei took up the election of former Chiba Mayor Kumagai as the governor of Chiba Prefecture on Sunday, noting that since he defeated a candidate supported by the ruling LDP, the GOJ is afraid the new leader may team up with Tokyo Governor Koike when dealing with the pandemic. Some LDP lawmakers accuse Koike of repeatedly staging political stunts to undermine the Suga administration. The daily noted that outgoing Chiba Governor Morita is very close to Prime Minister Suga, so he tried to prevent Koike from outmaneuvering the premier in deciding what to do about the state of emergency.