Hokkaido declares state of emergency, national school closures . . .
The Japanese island of Hokkaido declared a state of emergency today over the rapid rise in COVID-19 infections. The state of emergency will last until mid-March. Government officials urged Hokkaido residents to stay in their homes this weekend. The spread of the coronavirus on the island has accelerated recently, with 63 cases and two deaths confirmed today. On Thursday, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked authorities nationwide to shut down all elementary, middle, and high schools from March 2nd onwards to contain the disease. Some major Japanese firms, such as Mitsibushi and Hitachi, are asking employees to work remotely.
Japan still committed to the Summer Olympics . . .
Japan’s COVID-19 infections have now risen to 210, including five deaths – but excluding over 700 cases from the Diamond Princess cruise – raising concerns about the viability of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which are scheduled to begin on July 24. Japan’s government insists that the Games will go ahead as planned, but numerous other sports events have recently been cancelled since the outbreak in Japan. The International Olympic Committee President (IOC) Thomas Bach said that the committee is fully committed to the 2020 Games. However, if the outbreak exacerbates, IOC says it will consider other options by May at the latest. Japan has invested over C$16 billion in the Summer Games.
Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Japan as planned . . .
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said that there is no change in plans for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan in April. There has been speculation that Xi may cancel the visit due to the outbreak. Xi’s visit will be the first by a Chinese president in a decade, and the two countries consider it as a watershed moment to showcase an improved relationship. Japan and China, meanwhile, have agreed to scale up their co-operation to combat the outbreak.