Japan plans to revise the existing special law for combating the spread of the novel coronavirus to give greater authority to local governments across the country, officials said Sunday.
"A new law is necessary," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on a TV program, as the number of infections has been spiking since the government fully lifted a nationwide state of emergency in May and eased restrictions on business and social activities thereafter.
As prefectural governors have been calling for more power to be given to local governments in their fight against the pandemic, it is the first time that Suga has touched on the need to amend the special measures law against new types of infectious diseases.
During the Fuji TV program, he said a program to compensate businesses that comply with closure requests based on the law should be prepared, while showing reluctance to declare a state of emergency in limited regions.
The governors want to see the special law toughened and noncompliance with requests for business closures to entail penalties.
As the country continues to see a rising number of people infected with the pneumonia-causing virus, particularly at nightlife establishments such as hostess and host bars, Suga said more on-site inspections will be conducted there based on the law regulating adult entertainment, without waiting for the planned amendment.
"We will tighten up by having more police officers step in," he said.
The Tokyo metropolitan government on Sunday confirmed another 188 cases of the coronavirus, slipping below the 200 mark for the first time in four days.
The single-day figures until Saturday stood close to 300 for the third straight day, amid rising public concern over a resurgence of the pandemic in Tokyo and elsewhere.
The daily figures announced by the metropolitan government reflect the most recent totals reported by health authorities and medical institutions in the capital.
Tokyo's cumulative total stood at 9,411. About 510 new cases brought the nationwide tally to nearly 25,400, excluding 712 from the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama in February.
On Wednesday, the metropolitan government raised its alert for the pandemic to the highest of the four levels, meaning "infections are spreading."
Since the state of emergency was lifted, the number of infections has been rising, with the capital seeing triple-digit increases on most days in this month.
On Sunday, the western prefecture of Osaka confirmed 89 new cases of the virus, the most since the lifting.