Tokyo considers alert system as infection numbers jump back up

Linda J. Dodson

TOKYO — Coronavirus cases in Japan’s capital surged past 30 on Tuesday, one day after schools, shopping malls and gyms were allowed to reopen, leading the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to consider how it should go about issuing alerts.

The metro government confirmed 34 new cases for the day, up from 22 on Monday, a jump that made city officials realize they will have to soon start alerting the public.

Tokyo decided to consider issuing alerts under a number of scenarios — if new daily cases average 20 or more for seven days in a row, if it cannot confirm the infection route for over 50% of new cases, and if the weekly number of cases increases.

The situation “has been severe during the past few days,” Gov. Yuriko Koike said. “And we will now consider promptly issuing alerts based on expert opinions.”

Alerts will not affect the easing of restrictions that the capital began phasing in this week as schools and certain businesses reopened.

At first, the metro government will simply call on residents to refrain from going out as a preventive measure.

But if the number of infections rises after an alert is issued and if new daily cases average more than 50 during the most recent week, the metro government will again request restaurants and retailers to close or shorten their opening hours. Such a request will also be made if the transmission route is unknown in 50% of new cases or if the number of weekly confirmed cases doubles.

The number of new daily infections in Tokyo began to sharply increase at the end of March, reaching a peak of 206 on April 17. By the middle of May, the capital was recording fewer than 10 new daily cases. But later that month the number began to head back up.

The metro government says 20- and 30-somethings are at a particularly high risk as some residents in this age group have been tempted to stay out late in nightlife districts. Of the 90 new coronavirus patients in the week through Monday, 26 had been in central Tokyo late at night.

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