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19 Nov 2020 | 03:12 AM UTC

Authorities raise COVID-19 alert level in Tokyo to maximum alert November 19

Authorities raise COVID-19 alert level in Tokyo to maximum alert on November 19 amid increase in cases; follow official directives



The number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections reported in Tokyo reached 534 cases on Thursday, November 19, the second straight day that cases have hit a record daily high. The increases in daily infections in the capital have prompted Japanese authorities to raise the COVID-19 alert level for the city to the highest of four stages, maximum alert. Authorities have not yet imposed additional restrictions on activity; however, this remains under discussion at a two-day expert panel meeting through Friday, November 20. Reports suggest that measures may include shortening business hours and limiting groups at restaurants to four people.

Tokyo lowered the alert level to the second-highest rank on September 10 after the daily number of infections came down from a summer peak of 300-400 cases. The highest alert level indicates that infections are "spreading", whereas the level three alert indicates infections "appear to be spreading".

The majority of nonessential businesses have been permitted to reopen in the country. There remain some restrictions on mass gatherings of over 5000 people. Authorities continue to urge individuals to wear face masks and coverings as much as possible, taking them off only briefly to eat and drink at restaurants. Social distancing, avoiding closed spaces, and exercising basic precautions are still advised.

Japan reopened its borders to selected foreign visitors with permits to stay in the country in October. The relaxation of restrictions allows the entry of foreign nationals with permits to stay for three months or longer for purposes including engaging in medical, cultural, and sports-related activities. Business trips for less than three months will also be allowed. Travelers will be required to have tested negative for the virus within 72 hours prior to arriving in Japan. After arrival, travelers will be required to stay in self-isolation for 14 days and avoid using public transportation during the period. Travel for purpose of tourism remains prohibited.

As of November 19, there have been 36,294 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 468 associated fatalities in Tokyo. Overall in Japan, there have been 124,196 cases of COVID-19 and 1908 associated fatalities. Further spread of the virus is expected in the near term.


The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.


Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures: 

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.

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