TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo asked its residents on Wednesday to stay home this weekend to slow the spread of the coronavirus after new daily cases in the Japanese capital rose to 41.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said the city is on the verge of an explosive increase in infections and must make the effort to stop them from going out of control.
The 41 confirmed new cases Wednesday was by far the largest single-day rise since the beginning of the outbreak and comes after daily increases of 16 and 17. More than 10 of the cases confirmed Wednesday were from untraceable infection routes — a sign that clusters of local cases are silently expanding, she said. Tokyo now has about 200 confirmed cases.
“Right now, we are at critical phase that could determine if we head to explosive infections,” Koike said at a news conference. “I ask everyone to have a clear awareness and take action.”
Koike asked Tokyo’s 14 million residents not to go outside this weekend and continue working remotely if possible on weekdays, though the requests are non-binding. She also urged those returning from overseas to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.
Koike said a lockdown was possible in the future if the number of infections rises rapidly, but isn’t being considered currently.
On Tuesday, Japan and the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the Tokyo Olympic Games until the summer of 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Japan has 1,905 confirmed cases, including 712 from a quarantined cruise ship, with 53 deaths. It is seen as having managed to keep the outbreak under control despite a slow initial response and the much-criticized quarantine of the cruise ship Diamond Princess, but scientists say they are seeing some alarming signs in Tokyo, Osaka and other urban areas.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked all schools to close in March for about three weeks and urged companies to allow remote work and flexible hours. His government also enacted a divisive law that allows him to declare a state of emergency under which businesses and schools can be shut and private property confiscated to build hospitals.
The government announced that the school closures ended last weekend, prompting a sense of relief among many people who packed public parks for cherry blossom viewing.