Japan seeks to expand state of emergency to 21 prefectures to stem rise in Covid-19 infections

Restrictions in Japan have been looser than lockdowns seen in some countries.
PHOTO: Reuters

TOKYO - Japan is looking to expand a state of emergency to eight more prefectures, taking the total to 21 in all, to stem a rapid rise in coronavirus infections, the minister in charge of Covid-19 countermeasures said on Wednesday (Aug 25).

The government has so far placed 13 of Japan's 47 prefectures, including the capital, Tokyo, under emergency restrictions due to run until Sept 12 to combat soaring Delta variant cases that have piled pressure on the healthcare system.

"Critical cases have spiked suddenly and the medical system is in an extremely dire state," Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said at the start of a meeting with a panel of advisers, whose approval is needed to formalise the plan.

The government wants to impose emergency curbs on Hokkaido, Aichi, Hiroshima and five other regions spanning the Japanese archipelago from Friday through Sept 12, he said.

It is also looking to add four more prefectures for more limited "quasi-emergency" measures, he said.

Restrictions in Japan have been looser than lockdowns seen in some countries and have centred on mandates for restaurants to close early and stop serving alcohol in exchange for a subsidy and requests for companies to have more staff working from home.

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On Monday, new coronavirus cases hit 16,842 nationwide and deaths reached 32. Japan's case fatality rate stands at about 1.2 per cent, compared with 1.7 per cent in the United States and 2.0 per cent in Britain.

But about 90 per cent of Tokyo's critical care beds are occupied as serious cases rise, forcing many people to convalesce at home, with some dying before they are able to get treatment.