Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures are considering an imminent state of emergency to combat the region's rising number of coronavirus infections, the government announced Monday.
An emergency was last declared in Tokyo in early April during the country's first wave of cases and led to a nationwide lockdown that was lifted in May after the initial surge subsided - a trend now in reverse.
"The number of people infected with the novel coronavirus has not declined but remained high in Tokyo and the three adjacent prefectures," Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Monday.
Social and economic activities are unlikely to be completely stopped this time according to Suga, who said that the state of emergency should be implemented "in a limited and focused manner."
The Japan government was given the authority to declare a state of emergency in March last year and this provided the legal basis for later pandemic-fighting measures including social distancing and self-quarantining.
After postponing the 2020 summer Olympic and Paralympic Games last year, the capital was due to host the international competition in mid-2021. A possible state of emergency puts these plans in jeopardy.
Outside of Japan, the international community hit 85 million cases Monday along with 1.8 million deaths worldwide since the virus was first reported in China in December 2019.
The U.S. leads in both the number of cases and deaths according to data collected by John Hopkins University - with more than 20 million infections and 347,000 fatalities reported to date.
U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed disbelief at these figures. "The number of cases and deaths of the China virus is far exaggerated in the U.S.," the American leader, who will be leaving office Jan. 20, wrote in a Twitter post Sunday.
"The deaths are real deaths," Dr Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said in response. "We're averaging 2,000 to 3,000 deaths per day."
With the rapid worldwide spread of a new coronavirus strain out of the UK these figures are likely to rise. China reported its first infection of the variant Dec. 31 while Hong Kong health authorities announced two cases the week before.