TOKYO, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday extended the state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic covering the Tokyo metropolitan area by two weeks to March 21, as infection numbers have not fallen enough for the emergency period to be lifted as scheduled for Sunday.
Suga made the decision to extend the state of emergency for Tokyo and the three surrounding prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama at a meeting of the government's COVID-19 task force.
The extension is the second one since Suga declared the emergency in early January, with the prime minister saying the measure is "necessary to protect lives and livelihoods."
Health experts and local officials have voiced concerns that lifting the state of emergency for the region too early could lead to a resurgence in COVID-19 infections, with the medical care system once again becoming overly strained.
The Japanese government is working hard to bring the COVID-19 outbreak under control ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, set to kick off in less than five months.
Since the state of emergency was declared, people have been more ardently requested to refrain from making unnecessary trips outdoors and to work from home.
Bars and restaurants in particular have also been asked to shorten their operating hours and close their doors by 8:00 p.m.
Meanwhile, companies are encouraged to adopt remote working and attendance at large events such as concerts and sports games is capped at 5,000 people.