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People's Daily Online

3 more Japanese prefectures take tougher measures amid surging COVID-19 cases

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 09:49, April 13, 2021

TOKYO, April 12 (Xinhua) -- Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa prefectures on Monday implemented new stricter measures to combat a COVID-19 resurgence just weeks after a state of emergency was fully lifted for the nation.

For Kyoto and Okinawa, the stricter measures, including requesting bars and restaurants to shorten their opening hours and limiting attendance at large-scale spectator events at 5,000 people, will remain in place until May 5.

For Tokyo, the epicenter of the pandemic in Japan since its outbreak here, will see the tougher measures last through May 11.

In both cases, the restrictions will cover the Golden Week string of national holidays, one of Japan's busiest times for travel, with the hope being that the central government's and local governor's requests for people to avoid making unnecessary trips and crossing prefectural lines will help contain the virus which has been spreading unabated recently.

The addition of Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa to the list of prefectures where COVID-19 rates have surged, yet fall short of the government declaring a third state of emergency, followed similar designations recently for the western prefectures of Osaka and Hyogo prefectures and Miyagi in Japan's northeast.

The tougher measures have been implemented based on a revised law enabling the central government to declare a situation that falls short of a state of emergency in which special measures can be taken to counter the spread of the virus.

The stronger measures that can be taken by the prefectures could include imposing fines on bars and restaurants that ignore requests to shorten their operating hours.

The designation as being on the verge of a state of emergency can be applied when infections are surging in a situation equivalent to Stage 3, the second-highest on the government's four-tier alert system.

Yet, according to the health ministry, the infection rate in Osaka, Hyogo, Miyagi and Okinawa have already reached Stage 4, with experts including virologists saying the rate necessitates the central government declaring a third state of emergency.

The ministry said the rate in Tokyo and Kyoto has reached Stage 3 on the four-tier system.

According to the latest figures from the health ministry and local officials Monday evening, Tokyo's new daily COVID-19 cases increased by 306, Kyoto's by 42 and Okinawa's by 37.

As for Osaka, new cases rose by 603, Hyogo's infections increased by 159, while Miyagi added 34 new cases.

Nationwide, new infections reached 2,107 on Monday, with the cumulative total approaching 510,000 and the death toll reaching 9,446.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Monday said that the situation in Osaka was in fact worse than when the previous state of emergency was declared in January, although reiterated that the surging infections did not constitute a "fourth wave."

Meanwhile, the Japanese government on Monday started inoculating people aged 65 or over.

"We will work to ensure everyone can get their shots as soon as possible," Suga said Monday.

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