Japanese Prime Minister Suga is reluctant to name a state of emergency as coronavirus instances proceed to rise

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a press conference in Tokyo

From Sakura Murakami

TOKYO (Reuters) – Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reiterated that Japan does not need to declare a national state of emergency, even if health authorities have declared their own state of emergency for the medical system as coronavirus infection rates continue to rise.

Suga said the head of the government's panel of experts on the coronavirus pandemic had told him "we're not there yet" to declare a state of emergency.

"We need to show the results of our coronavirus countermeasures," Suga said during an interview on national television late Monday. "I will lead efforts with a mindset to do whatever needs to be done."

Suga's approval ratings have dropped. Polls show the public disapproves of how he handled the pandemic, particularly his domestic tourism campaign, "Go To Travel," which is responsible for the surge in infections.

According to a weekend poll by the Asahi newspaper, support for his cabinet fell to 39% from 56% in the previous month. 79% of respondents said their decision to stop the Go To Travel campaign was too late.

A group of national medical associations called their own medical emergency on Monday, warning that the system was under significant strain from the pandemic.

While health professionals are increasingly concerned about whether the system can withstand the surge in cases, those concerns seem to have receded politically, said Koji Wada, professor of public health at Tokyo International University of Health and Welfare.

"Medical groups are concerned about the medical workers and patients, while the government's panel of experts needs to consider the entire population," he said, including restaurant workers and people who could lose their jobs.

Japan has seen new infection rates rise in recent weeks. According to national broadcaster NHK, 2,154 people were hospitalized on Monday.

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