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Japan to Declare Quasi State of Emergency Amid Rising Covid Cases

Japan to Declare Quasi State of Emergency Amid Rising Covid Cases

Japan is set to allow governors of three prefectures, including Okinawa, to enact restrictions on social activities as the community spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant becomes more prevalent.

SURGING CASES

Japan has decided to place three prefectures with surging COVID-19 cases under a quasi-state of emergency as their governors suspect viral resurgences have started from U.S. military bases there, while the nationwide tally of infections for the day hit a four-month high of more than 6,000.

The three prefectures made up about a third of the nation’s tally, which stood at 6,214 — an over 10-fold increase from a week earlier. The three prefectures are Okinawa, Yamaguchi, and Hiroshima and the declaration will be effective from Sunday to Jan. 31. This will enable prefecture authorities to bolster their anti-covid measures.

The entire southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, home to a vast majority of U.S. bases in Japan, will be put under a quasi-state of emergency, following a new record of 1,414 new daily virus cases on Friday.

Health experts have warned of a sixth wave of the pandemic in Japan amid the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus.

The minister in charge of Japan’s coronavirus measures, Daishiro Yamagiwa, told the expert panel that the rampant nature of the latest COVID-19 spread, if left unchecked, will put great pressure on medical facilities.

RE-ENFORCING PREVENTATIVE MEASURES

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Enforcement of the measures, the first under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who took office in October, is designed to rein in rapidly spreading infections and prevent local medical systems from being stretched too thin. Under the quasi-state of emergency, prefectural officials will be empowered to enhance antiviral measures further.

Eateries are to close early and bars and restaurants are to refrain from serving alcoholic beverages.

Japan had seen a clear downtrend in newly confirmed coronavirus cases as vaccinations progressed. But the Omicron strain has posed new challenges, prompting Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki to describe the speed of its spread as “staggering and explosive”.

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