Tokyo, Jan 7 (EFE).- Japan approved Friday the imposition of new restrictions due to the pandemic in three prefectures in the south and west of the country to stop the alarming increase in covid-19 cases that has led the nation to declare a sixth-wave emergency.
The measures will come into force Sunday and last throughout January in Okinawa, Yamaguchi and Hiroshima, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.
“The government has decided to declare the epidemic alert due to the need to take measures as soon as possible,” said Kishida, who added that “the pandemic is spreading throughout the country” and advocated adopting measures “in the face of the rapid spread of omicron.”
The measures contemplate the early closure of bars and restaurants, the prohibition of serving alcohol and limitations on the capacity of mass events, such as sports or cultural events. Authorities of each prefecture will be free to set their own restrictions and, therefore, they may vary from region to region.
The establishment of the alert, which does not imply the declaration of a state of health emergency, does not entail confinement for the population, which is not legal in the country.
Japan has gone through several periods with similar measures in the past two years. The last covid restrictions in some areas of the country were lifted Oct. 1.
The prefectures affected by an alarming increase in infections are home to several United States military bases that have become sources of infection.
In Okinawa, which brings together about 70 percent of these troops, cases have multiplied by 30 in a week. The territory counted 1,414 new cases Friday, after 981 on the day before and 623 on Wednesday, according to official data.
Cases are also increasing rapidly in Yamaguchi, mainly in the city of Iwakuni, where there is a US air base, and neighboring Hiroshima.
The reestablishment of restrictions has raised concerns about a possible extension to other areas of the country such as Tokyo, which is also experiencing a rapid increase in cases.
The Japanese capital Friday registered 922 new infections, after 641 on Thursday, 390 on Wednesday and 151 on Tuesday.
Asked about a possible alert in the metropolis, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike said she would seek “the most effective way to adopt measures following the recommendations of the experts.”
Although the Japanese health system is not under pressure, the rate of increase in cases has raised concerns about a potential increase in hospitalizations affecting basic services.
“Looking at the current situation, we want to do everything possible to prevent treatment problems. It is important that the medical system works in each locality,” Kishida said.
In Japan, only 0.6 percent of the population has received the booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine so far, according to the latest data available. The injection is currently being administered only to healthcare personnel and it is expected that it will soon begin to be applied to the elderly and priority groups.
Japan has so far registered 1.74 million cases and 18,411 deaths linked to the coronavirus. EFE