Japan expands restrictions to most regions amid record Covid cases

Tokyo, Jan 25 (EFE).- The Japanese government Tuesday decided to raise the level of health alert for coronavirus and extend restrictions to 34 of its 47 prefectures amid record Covid-19 infections of more than 60,000.

Last week, the government had declared a state of “quasi-emergency” due to coronavirus in some of the major Japanese regions, including Tokyo and its neighboring prefectures.

The government has added 18 more regions to the list.

The rapid advance of the coronavirus, driven by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant, has caused cases to touch record highs and pushed most regional governments to resort to harsh measures.

The central government said it would assess whether it was necessary to raise the alert level to the highest – the declaration of the state of emergency if infections continue to rise and local authorities request it.

The government had declared a state of emergency during the earlier phases of the pandemic.

“Since the declaration entails strong restrictions on private rights, we need to carefully consider it,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Shigeru Omi, head of the government’s Covid-19 advisory panel, also pointed out the need for “steps targeting the characteristics of the omicron variant” and stressed the urgency of stopping the virus before the healthcare system is saturated.

The declaration of the “quasi-emergency” will give regional governments the power to take measures such as limiting opening hours of bars and restaurants, prohibiting alcohol sales, and limiting spectator numbers at mass events.

The Japanese authorities do not have legal powers to impose a mandatory lockdown, but it reinstated strict border restrictions after detecting the Omicron variant in African countries.

However, it was not effective in preventing the spread of the new variant in Japan, causing a massive spike in cases.

The infections surpassed 62,000 on Tuesday, including a record 12,000 in Tokyo, public broadcaster NHK reported. EFE


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