Japan expands Covid emergency to 8 more prefectures

Tokyo, Aug 25 (EFE).- The government of Japan on Wednesday decided to extend the coronavirus health emergency to eight more regions, taking the total number of prefectures where containment measures have been imposed to 33 out of the total 47, amid a record surge in Covid-19 infections.

The new emergency measures would affect regions in the northern, central and western parts of the country apart from those already covered under the restrictions, such as Tokyo, Osaka and other heavily populated areas of the Japanese archipelago.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in a meeting with the government’s working group on the pandemic that the decision was taken due to the high level of infections and the “difficult situation” of the health system.

The emergency would take effect in the new prefectures, including Hokkaido, Aichi and Hiroshima, from Friday and is set to last until Sep. 12, same as the measures earlier announced in 13 other regions.

Under the legislative provision used in exceptional situations, local authorities can ask businesses such as bars and restaurants to reduce their opening hours, although the curbs cannot be made obligatory.

Local governments can also ban crowded events and recommend the closure of centers of public education, although a compulsory lockdown of the population cannot be imposed under the rules.

Japan has been reporting over 20,000 daily Covid-19 cases since mid-August, the highest caseload since the beginning of the pandemic which is also three times higher than the figures witnessed during the previous wave in spring.

Although the number of daily deaths has not gone past 50 since June, the shortage of hospital beds reserved for serious Covid patients in the most populated regions has triggered concerns.

Meanwhile vaccination in Japan has been advancing at a slower rate than other developed nations, with just around 42.6 percent of the population fully vaccinated against the disease so far.

The expansion of the health emergency to more regions comes even as Tokyo is hosting the Paralympic Games under a bubble arrangement and other unprecedented measures to prevent transmission of the virus between participants and the local population. EFE

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