Japan to broaden emergency measures

Tokyo, Jan 21 (IANS) Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures in Japan will jointly request the central government to place the regions under a Covid-19 quasi-state of emergency as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly across the country.

Osaka has seen new daily infections hover around the 6,000-mark, Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said, adding: “The ratio of hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients is likely to reach today or tomorrow the 35-percent threshold for requesting the central government’s emergency step.”

Other regions are looking to follow suit in a bid to combat the highly-transmissible Omicron variant, with Hokkaido, Shizuoka and Fukuoka prefectures also mulling requesting being placed under the emergency measures, reports Xinhua news agency.

Fukushima and Shimane prefectures, meanwhile, have reportedly decided to make the official request to the central government to be placed under the emergency measures.

Across Japan, 16 prefectures have or under the process of being placed under the quasi-state of emergency, with more regions likely to be added in the coming days as the nation grapples with a daily infection count which on Thursday climbed to a new record for a third straight day at over 42,000 new cases.

In Tokyo, 8,638 new cases were reported on Thursday, surpassing Wednesday’s record of 7,377 new infections.

Also on Thursday, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told Parliament that the latest tally of Covid-19 cases among US military personnel stationed at bases across Japan stood at 6,350, with the highest number reported in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, which hosts the vast majority of the American bases.

As to whether Japan plans to lift or ease its entry restrictions to non-resident foreign nationals, as per the recommendations of a World Health Organization panel, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara said that the country’s virus situation was “different”.

“The infection situations regarding Omicron are clearly different in Japan and abroad,” he said, adding that the current border restrictions will be kept in place as planned until the end of February.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has described the country’s border controls, aimed at stopping new cases of the virus entering the country, as “the most stringent among the Group of Seven advanced economies”.

–IANS

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