Coronavirus live updates: US Forces Japan declares public health emergency

narvikk/iStock(NEW YORK) — A global pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed at least 9,648 people in the United States.

The United States is, by far, the hardest-hit country with more than 337,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

The first cases of COVID-19 were detected in China back in December. Now, more than 1.2 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the disease and over 264,000 of them have recovered while another 69,500 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University’s count. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.

Italy still has the highest death toll in the world — almost 16,000.

Here’s how the story is developing Monday. All times Eastern:

6:42 a.m.: State of emergency looms in Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he intends to declare a state of emergency over the country’s novel coronavirus outbreak amid a recent surge in infections.

During a press conference Monday, Abe said he was making final arrangements for the declaration and would announce it as soon as Tuesday. The order would last for about a month and would apply to seven prefectures that includes major cities such as Tokyo, which has seen a jump in new infections in recent days.

The extent of the emergency measures were not fully known Monday, but the declaration would give prefectural governors the power to ask people to stay home. Local media reports say public transportation and supermarkets would remain open.

As of Monday, at least 3,654 people in Japan have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 85 of them have died, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The Japanese government has admitted that infection routes cannot be traced in an increasing number of cases.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo issued a stark warning to Americans in Japan on Friday, saying those who wish to return should do so now or risk being stuck there “for an indefinite period.”

“For U.S. citizens now in Japan, if you plan to return to the United States, we recommend that you arrange for an immediate departure. Failure to do so could mean staying abroad for an indefinite period,” the embassy said in the alert. “As compared to the number of positive cases and hospitalizations in the United States and Europe, the number of reported COVID-19 cases in Japan remains relatively low. The Japanese Government’s decision to not test broadly makes it difficult to accurately assess the COVID-19 prevalence rate.”

3 a.m.: US Forces Japan declares public health emergency

The commander of the United States Forces Japan on Monday announced a public health emergency for the Kanto Plain “due to the steady increase” of novel coronavirus infections in nearby Tokyo.

The declaration, which will remain in effect through May 5, gives commanders the authority to enforce compliance of health protection measures on those who live and work on all U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine installations and facilities located on the Kanto Plain, the largest lowland in Japan that covers more than half of the eastern Kanto region, including Tokyo.

“Protecting the health and safety of everyone associated with U.S. Forces Japan is my number one priority,” Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, U.S. Forces Japan commander, said in a statement Monday. “I cannot underscore enough the importance of personal responsibility at a time like this. Stopping the spread of COVID-19 requires the entire team — service members, civilians, families, and our Japanese partners.”

The announcement comes as the daily count of new COVID-19 cases in the Japanese capital have jumped in recent days, from 78 on March 31 to 143 on Sunday, according to data published on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s website.

Last month, an active duty member of the U.S. Forces Japan tested positive for COVID-19.

In total, 1,033 people have tested positive for the disease in Tokyo and 30 of them have died, according to the government’s website. A count kept by Johns Hopkins University show’s Japan’s nationwide tally is up to 3,654 diagnosed cases and 85 deaths.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apparently plans to declare a state of emergency in major cities such as Tokyo amid the recent surge in infections, according to local media reports.

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