News from from Japan plans to declare a quasi-emergency erupted earlier. Here’s our correspondent in Tokyo, Justin McCurry, with the country’s latest Covid measures.
Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, is preparing to declare a quasi-state of emergency in Tokyo and several other regions after the country reported the highest number of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
Kishida is expected to make a formal announcement this week giving local governors the power to instruct bars and restaurants to stop serving alcohol and close early and residents not to cross prefectural borders.
Japanese authorities do not have the legal power to impose shorter opening hours or restrictions on people’s movement, but businesses that refuse to cooperate can face fines.
Japan reported more than 30,000 new infections on Tuesday, well above the previous high of nearly 26,000 last August, just after Tokyo had hosted the Summer Olympics. The Japanese capital reported 5,148 new cases – a more than fivefold increase from the same day last week – while Osaka recorded 5,396 infections.
The measures would come into force on Friday in Tokyo and 12 other prefectures and end on February 13. Okinawa and two other prefectures are already under near-emergency measures following outbreaks at US military bases that have spread to local civilian populations.
The Omicron variant appears to be driving the latest wave of cases in what officials describe as a sixth wave. “The Omicron variant is clearly different from existing variants. It is crucial to take effective measures adapted to its characteristics,” said the government’s chief health adviser, Shigeru Omi, told reporters after meeting Kishida.
Chief Cabinet Secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, acknowledged that infections were spreading at an “unprecedented speed”, adding that there were concerns about the strain on hospitals if cases continued to rise dramatically.
TokyoHospital bed occupancy for Covid-19 patients reached 23.4% on Tuesday – occupancy would need to reach 50% to trigger a full-fledged state of emergency.
About 80% of JapanThe population of 125 million is double-vaccinated, but only about 1% has received a booster shot. The government has promised to speed up the boosters, but most people will have to wait until March or later under the current schedule.