The national government announced its decision today to lift the declaration of a state of emergency for Tokyo and the three surrounding prefectures, including Kanagawa, on March 21. I believe this outcome is thanks to the long two and a half months of efforts implementing measures to prevent infection by our residents, businesses, and health care workers. I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you.
Once the declaration is lifted, public facilities in Yokohama that were directed to close by 8 p.m. will be allowed to operate until 9 p.m. through April 21.
City-organized events, in accordance with national and prefectural guidelines, will allow up to 10 thousand attendees and also remain open until 9 p.m. through April 21.
The number of new cases in Yokohama for the past week stands at 313, a significant drop compared to the record 2,723 weekly cases reported in mid-January.
Also, among hospitalizations, 4 patients (2%) have severe symptoms, 48 patients (18%) are experiencing moderate symptoms, and the remaining 214 patients (80%) show mild or no symptoms. Currently, 103 patients who have tested positive are occupying the beds secured by the city, or 18.7% of the total, and robust care is being provided for both coronavirus treatment and for everyday health care services.
As the warm spring approaches, events and festivities will gradually resume. “Garden Necklace Yokohama 2021” begins on the 27th. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are just around the corner this summer. It is critical that we prevent another surge of infections: not only to ensure the success of the games, the first in Japan in 57 years, that will inspire and move the hearts of so many, but most of all for the sake of returning to our peaceful daily lives and restoring the bustle of activity to the city. With concerns about the spread of new variants of the virus, we absolutely cannot tolerate a rebound in the number of new cases in order to maintain a steady health care system.
To prevent another spread of infections, the national government is focusing on five anti-virus programs: preventive measures at dining establishments, enhancing response to variants, expanding testing to monitor for infections, preparing vaccinations, and reinforcing the health care system.
Yokohama will continue to work with the national and prefectural governments and remain committed to preventing a resurge in cases while carefully following the infection situation and trends throughout the country.
The city will cooperate with national initiatives to monitor PCR testing for those without symptoms in order to recognize the spread of infections in the early stages.
Additionally, the city is conducting tests that screen for variants of the virus among the 5% that tested positive among outpatients who were returning from abroad or who may have been in contact with infected persons. Yokohama will continue to coordinate with the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and enact a rapid response to any outbreaks.
In order to prepare for the possibility of a resurge of infections, Yokohama is working to increase the number of beds for patients testing positive, with 550 currently secured. With the cooperation of even more medical institutions, the city has also secured approximately 200 beds for patients with a fever or other symptoms that could indicate a coronavirus infection.
Moreover, Yokohama is committing its full efforts to preparing for the vaccine rollout, which will be the lynchpin to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Vaccinations will begin at long term care facilities starting the week of April 12.
A dedicated call center with 300 lines has been established to answer questions and respond to concerns from residents about the COVID-19 vaccine. City personnel conducted a practice exercise at a long term care facility in Tsurumi Ward that simulated the entire vaccination process, from check-in to the post-vaccine follow-up examination. Preparatory simulations are planned to be held at vaccination venues in all 18 wards.
A vaccine transport management center will be established in April to ensure the vaccine can be delivered safely and efficiently to medical institutions and group vaccination venues.
The vaccine plays a large role in suppressing both the symptoms and the spread of the virus. The city will spare no effort in preparations so that all residents can get vaccinated smoothly and with piece of mind.
With the lifting of the declaration of a state of emergency, Yokohama will steadily promote initiatives to support local businesses and put socio-economic activity on track to recover as soon as possible.
Business owners have been facing hardships they had never before experienced due to the request to shorten business hours having been in place for so long. With the intention of supporting businesses at all costs, the city has provided 490 billion yen in financial support and institutional loans so far among 23,600 applicants to ensure business continuity.
Furthermore, Yokohama will support capital investments and market expansion for new business activities developed during the pandemic, such as online business negotiations and takeout services. The city will coordinate with the Yokohama Chamber of Commerce and other organizations to provide its fullest support to local businesses, the foundation of the city's growth.
To all city departments: demonstrate leadership in the approach to helping prevent a resurge in cases. Make use of every opportunity and tool available to call on not only residents but businesses and their related organizations and industries to reinforce preventive measures.
As the season for cherry blossom viewing and welcoming or going-away parties approaches, help ensure residents and businesses continue to observe comprehensive preventive measures.
I once again call upon all residents.
•Please refrain from nonessential and non-urgent outings, day or night, and especially after 9 p.m., to help reduce the chance of contact with others.
•Please hold off from graduation trips, welcoming or going away parties, and other celebrations, and enjoy cherry blossom viewing without social eating or drinking.
•Avoid the five situations where the risk of infection is higher, such as dining or drinking for an extended period or in large groups, conversations while not masked, living with others in small spaces, and when entering or leaving breakrooms, smoking areas, and so on. Please also try to implement remote working or staggered commuting if possible.
•Please continue to observe basic measures to prevent infection, such as ventilating rooms, avoiding situations with the “three C's,” washing hands frequently, using disinfectant, and wearing masks.
I also call upon our local businesses.
•Please cooperate with national and prefectural policies, such as the requests for bars and restaurants to close at 9 p.m. and various restrictions on holding events.
•Refer to industry guidelines and ensure preventive measures are thoroughly implemented.
•Aim for a 70% reduction of staff in offices to prevent excess contact with others at work or on transportation by implementing remote work, flexible working hours, staggered commuting and lunch breaks, and other measures.
We have made it through two declarations of a state of emergency together. Yokohama will continue to make every effort as we work with national and prefectural governments and medical institutions to protect the lives and livelihoods of all our residents and revitalize our economy.