Japanese government panel asks 3 prefectures to adopt measures to curb COVID
TOKYO — A Japanese government panel on Friday issued a request for the declaration of near-emergency measures in three regions to stem a surge of COVID-19 that some officials have linked to U.S. military bases in the country.
If approved, it would be the first such measures since September, when Japan lifted emergency controls that had prevailed over the country for most of last year.
Official approval is expected later Friday after a meeting of health experts.
The infectious variant of Omicron has been found in about 80% of Japanese prefectures, and coronavirus cases are increasing. New infections topped 4,000 nationwide on Wednesday, up from an average of around 200 a day last month.
“There are cases where there is no foreign travel history and the route of infection is unknown, while the Delta strain also continues to spread,” the health minister said. Shigeyuki Goto to reporters.
“We need to be prepared for the rapid spread of infection in the future,” he added.
The new measures, affecting the southern prefecture of Okinawa and the western prefectures of Hiroshima and Yamaguchi, would last from January 9 until the end of the month.
All three regions host bases for the U.S. military, which on Thursday announced stricter infection controls at Japan’s request after outbreaks at the base appeared to spread to surrounding communities.
Governors of prefectures had called for the near-emergency measures, which include limited opening hours for bars and restaurants, after seeing an increase in cases, driven by the infectious variant of Omicron.
The island chain south of Okinawa, home to 70% of US military installations in Japan, has been the hardest hit so far in what appears to be the sixth wave of the pandemic in the country.
The prefecture is expected to report more than 1,400 new cases on Friday, Okinawa TV reported, a new record and more than 981 on Thursday.
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