At least 118 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Tokyo on Saturday, the first time the daily increase has topped 100, the metropolitan government said, in a development that could raise pressure on Japan to declare a state of emergency.
"This is a matter of your life. I want to prevent the spread of infections by all means," Gov. Yuriko Koike said in a statement, asking people to follow the city's request that they stay indoors during the weekend.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is widely seen as cautious about declaring an emergency despite spiking infections in urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka and growing calls from medical experts to do so due to fears the country's health care system could collapse.
A central government source said, however, "We're not in a situation where we have to immediately issue a declaration," while denying that cases with untraceable transmission routes have increased significantly.
Of the 118 cases reported Saturday in the capital, 81 are untraceable, the local government said. The new infections brought the city's total number of cases to 891, including 817 people who have been or need to be hospitalized, well above the 750 beds it had reserved for coronavirus patients by Friday.
Across Japan, the total number of cases topped 4,000 on Saturday, including some 700 from the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship quarantined earlier this year near Tokyo.
Far fewer people were on the streets of shopping areas in Tokyo and other cities in Japan on Saturday, after authorities requested that residents stay at home.
For the second straight weekend, many people in Japan refrained from going out after the country's National Governors' Association on Thursday called on residents to avoid leaving their homes except for essential reasons. The number of temporarily closed stores and restaurants increased from the previous weekend.
"As the vast majority of stores are shut, the number of people on the streets is only about 10 percent of normal times," said a 48-year-old shop employee in Tokyo's Omotesando shopping district. "I hardly see foreign tourists these days."
(Tokyo's Harajuku entertainment and shopping district on April 4, 2020.)
Besides Tokyo, where a surge in new cases has made the capital the worst-hit area in the country, stay-at-home requests have also been issued by prefectures including Osaka, Fukui, Fukuoka, Miyagi and Ibaraki.
Among major retailers, Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd. earlier this week decided to close six department stores in and around Tokyo during the weekends until April 12.
The famous scramble crossing and shopping streets near JR Shibuya Station, normally packed with people from their late teens to 30s, were no exception. Shibuya 109, a popular department store for young women, will be closed through April 12.
The atmosphere in commercial districts outside Tokyo was similar. Foot traffic was noticeably sparse, except people buying daily necessities and those trying to secure face masks.
"I went to all the shops in this area to find masks but all were sold out. I hope I can still find them," said a 43-year-old man who waited in a line outside a drug store in Fukuoka's major shopping district of Tenjin for about one hour before it opened.