The Japanese island of Hokkaido, home to over 5 million people, has officially declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak. Two days ago, the mayor of San Francisco took a similar measure.
Meanwhile, Switzerland has taken the extraordinary measure of banning meetings and events involving more than 1,000 people.
At least 66 infections have been confirmed in Hokkaido, while Japan reports over 900 domestic cases (most of them linked to the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo).
Japan has already undertaken major efforts to contain the outbreak. Schools have been closed down until late March, affecting 13 million students.
“The situation has become more serious. I’d like people to refrain from going outside over the weekend to protect your life and health,” Hokkaido Gov. Naomichi Suzuki said during a local task force meeting.
These decisions, while severe, are in line with what the World Health Organization (WHO) officials are saying. The outbreak has reached a “decisive point”, says WHO head Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, who added that the global outbreak has “pandemic potential”.
However, while Japan seems determined to take drastic measures, some local residents and mayors have complained that such measures are unjustified, Kyodo News reports.
“There are many small- and medium-sized businesses in the countryside. Parents taking leave or reducing working hours would have a major impact on such businesses,” said the mayor of Kanazawa, a city in central Japan.
Education minister Koichi Hagiuda has made it so that school principals can keep schools open if they so desire, but emphasized the importance of shutting down activities that can spread the virus — and schools are a prime example.
“We ask for the cooperation of relevant ministries and agencies so that students will stay home in principle and not go outside unless it’s necessary,” said Hagiuda.
“Experts have been saying schools have a high risk of group infection,” he said in defending the government request.
Meanwhile, Switzerland, who saw its number of COVID-19 cases jump from 2 to 8 yesterday, took another stern measure, banning all large-scale meetings.
“An extraordinary meeting of the Federal Council was held today, 28 February,” a press release read. “In view of the current situation and the spread of the coronavirus, the Federal Council has categorised the situation in Switzerland as ‘special’ in terms of the Epidemics Act. Large-scale events involving more than 1000 people are to be banned. The ban comes into immediate effect and will apply at least until 15 March.”
The announcement added that the Swiss Federal Council is “aware that this measure will have a significant impact on public life in Switzerland”, but it emphasizes effective protection from the virus.
Meanwhile, California’s governor Gavin Newson refused to declare a state-wide emergency, although the city of San Francisco and Orange County have declared local emergencies.