TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's health ministry said Thursday that the country had more than 500 new novel coronavirus cases for the first time on Wednesday, bringing the national total to 4,768 -- excluding hundreds from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year.
The continuous climb comes two days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other hard-hit prefectures, while asking people to reduce at least 70% of human interactions. The step allows Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and six other prefectural leaders to issue stricter measures of social distancing, but without penalties to violators. So far, Koike only issued a stay-at-home request to residents. Requests for closures of non-essential businesses and services are still underway.
Many people were seen commuting to their offices Thursday morning in downtown Tokyo, as many Japanese companies are slow to allow remote working for their employees, raising doubts over how effective efforts can be under the state-of-emergency measures.