02/29/2020, 12.34
JAPAN
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Coronavirus: Hokkaido island declares a state of emergency

At least 66 cases of contagion and two deaths confirmed in northern prefecture.  Across Japan, the total toll is 235 infections and five deaths.  Tokyo does not consider 705 sick passengers and six victims aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship.  Premier Abe clarifies his call for school closures.

 

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The island of Hokkaido, the second largest in Japan, has declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus epidemic confirmed  stated by Naomichi Suzuki (photo), governor of the prefecture, in a press conference held yesterday evening in the capital Sapporo.  In Hokkaido, the Japanese health authorities have confirmed at least 66 cases of contagion and two deaths;  in the country, the total toll is 235 infections and five deaths. 

The data reported by the Tokyo government does not include the 705 sick passengers and the six victims on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, quarantined in the port of Yokohama since the beginning of the month.  The health minister announced that the latest to die dead on the boat is an unidentified British citizen, who joins five Japanese who have already died.

News of the death came as  the governor of Hokkaido invited citizens to stay home this weekend, in a desperate attempt to contain the Covid-19 epidemic.  Suzuki launched the unprecedented appeal at a televised meeting of government officials.  “"The situation has become more serious. I'd like people to refrain from going outside over the weekend to protect your lives and health," Hokkaido Gov. Naomichi Suzuki said in the declaration.  The prefectural government cited the possibility of small clusters of infections after six people this month visited an exhibition in the city of Kitami and later tested positive for the virus.  Suzuki also asked those who feel unwell to refrain from going to work, saying there have been cases where people with mild symptoms have spread the virus when traveling.

Suzuki's appeal partially diverted public attention from the confusion denounced by many local authorities and prefectures in the country following the sudden request by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to close schools temporarily.  Many institutions across Japan will close, in line with the wishes of the premier, who has sparked public protests.  These forced him to clarify that the last word on school closures is up to the local authorities.  Education minister Koichi Hagiuda indicated that school boards could be flexible in deciding when and how long schools will close for.  "It is okay to respond in various ways, depending on the circumstances of local communities and schools," he said.

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