China locks down 11 million, Japan imposes new measures . . .
While several jurisdictions in Asia are experiencing surges of COVID-19 cases, spikes in China’s Hebei Province and Japan’s Metropolitan Tokyo area have led to new lockdowns. With 120 cases reported today, Hebei has become a hotspot with the highest growth of cases in Mainland China in five months. Authorities in Shijiazhuang, Hebei’s capital of 11 million people and the city accounting for most of the new cases, have enacted strict new measures. Meanwhile, Japan experienced record-breaking COVID-19 numbers this week, with the daily number increasing to more than 7,000 on Thursday as Prime Minister Suga declared a month-long state of emergency for Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures, home to about a third of the country’s population and over a third of the new cases.
Not all lockdowns are equal . . .
Restrictions and lockdowns mean different things in different countries. Shijiazhuang authorities have increased enforceable measures such as restricting travel in and out of the city, banning gatherings, requiring mass testing, and doubling down on contact tracing. The prime minister and governors in Japan, on the other hand, can call for restrictions on movement and commerce but lack enforcement measures due to Constitutional restrictions. This time around, Tokyo’s restaurants and bars are being requested to stop serving alcohol at 7 p.m. and close early, residents are to avoid non-essential travel, and there is a goal of reducing commuter traffic by 70 per cent.
Olympics at stake for both countries . . .
Just as Japan announced its new state of emergency on Thursday, Prime Minister Suga reiterated that the country would move forward and host the postponed 2020 Summer Olympics, set to take place in the greater Tokyo region and Sapporo this summer. But some health experts suggest a two-month-long emergency would be needed to decrease the infection rate to make this a plausible scenario. China, which is set to host the Winter Olympics in February 2022, is also under pressure to ensure that it can keep COVID-19 under wraps, especially in the hosting areas of Beijing and Hebei Province.
- Channel News Asia: Chinese city of 11 million stops people leaving in bid to contain COVID-19
- The Japan Times: What will Tokyo’s second state of emergency mean?
- South China Morning Post: Coronavirus: China’s Hebei province reports 120 new local cases as millions tested