Tokyo faces other isolation measures to prevent an "explosion" of coronavirus cases and there are calls in Hong Kong for a curfew to prevent the collapse of the health system amid fears of a second wave of infections in East Asia.
The Tokyo governor asked city residents to stay home this weekend "at all costs" to prevent an "explosion" of Covid-19 infections after an increase in the number of local cases.
Yuriko Koike described the situation as "severe", but stopped demanding the kind of restrictions on circulation currently in force in other countries.
On Thursday, a panel of government experts said they feared coronavirus infections were "rampant" in Japan, provoking speculation that the government would reinforce restrictions on the movement and encourage social distance.
These concerns echoed in Hong Kong, where a health expert said the territory's public health system could collapse, unless the government introduced measures to keep people out, as global infections increased to more than 470,000 and deaths exceeded 21,000.
Ho Pak-leun, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Hong Kong, told local radio that unless Hong Kong adopted curfew or blocking restrictions, there would be "serious consequences".
Hong Kong has had great success in preventing an epidemic, but in recent weeks there has been an increase in infections, especially among returning travelers. Non-residents are prohibited from entering Hong Kong, and arrivals should be quarantined for 14 days, but shops, restaurants and bars remain open.
"The government should no longer implement one-off measures little by little," said Ho.
In other global developments:
• The US Senate has gone through a historic $ 2 billion stimulus package. The measure, which was unopposed, is the largest of its kind in U.S. history and occurred when the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. exceeded 1,000.
• China did not report any new cases transmitted locally for the second consecutive day. However, mainland China has reported an increase in new confirmed cases to 67, all involving travelers from abroad.
• The economic crisis and job losses caused by the pandemic are likely to be worse than the 2008 recession, according to projections by the World Trade Organization.
• Singapore is heading for a deep recession, data show. Singapore suffered its biggest economic downturn in a decade, according to preliminary growth figures for the first three months of the year.
• Thailand banned entry to the kingdom on Wednesday night, enacting broad emergency powers in an attempt to stem the local spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
• Mexico's federal government suspends all non-essential activities as of Thursday, said Mexico's deputy health minister, Hugo Lopez-Gatell.
• American authorities are preparing to take tens of thousands of people home more than they expected. About 50,000 Americans may need help from their government to get home, said the US State Department.
• More than 400,000 people volunteered to help the UK's National Health Service. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the government expected 250,000 people to volunteer to help isolated people, delivering medicine, transporting patients and making regular calls to check on them.
• Italy's infection rate has declined for the third consecutive day. The World Health Organization said the country could reach the maximum number of coronavirus cases on Sunday.
In Hong Kong, executive board member Lam Ching-choi said public broadcaster RTHK the government was considering restricting the number of people who can meet at the same time. Lam said he was considering banning meetings at certain times of the day.
Chief executive Carrie Lam said in a statement late on Wednesday: “We believe that a large number of Hong Kong citizens will continue to return. [to] Hong Kong in the following weeks, due to the worsening situation abroad and, therefore, confirmed cases will inevitably continue to increase.
“The situation will be more serious and more difficult to deal with than at any time in the past two months and may even lead to continuous and large-scale outbreaks in the community. This is a critical moment in the fight against the disease and also a time to test the resilience of the people of Hong Kong in the face of the epidemic. "
China's health officials said they had 67 new cases, but none were transmitted locally. Hong Kong saw 24 new cases on Thursday, most of them newcomers.
Social media users in Japan have posted photos of empty supermarket shelves after Koike's announcement on Wednesday night, while other stores appeared to be very low on items such as noodles, rice, instant noodles and toilet paper.
Tokyo – a city of 13 million people – registered 41 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, the highest daily number and more than double the number recorded the previous day. With a total of 212 cases, Tokyo overtook the northern island of Hokkaido, previously the most affected of Japan's 47 prefectures.
Koike also encouraged Tokyo residents to work from home during the week and avoid restaurants at night. Large-scale events are due to be canceled by April 12, he added. "Starting this week, there are growing concerns that we may see an explosion of infections," said Koike, adding that he would consider more stringent measures if the increase in new cases could not be contained.
O coronavirus outbreak infected 1,271 people across Japan, with 44 deaths linked to the virus, public broadcaster NHK said. These figures do not include 712 cases and 10 deaths on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined in Yokohama last month. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged people to avoid all non-essential trips abroad.