Japan to expand virus control measures in Tokyo and other areas

Women wearing face masks walk along the sidewalk in Tokyo, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)

TOKYO (AP) — Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday announced plans to maintain COVID-19 restrictions for Tokyo and 12 other regions for three more weeks through early March as omicron infections show few signs of abating. downturn and most Japanese still lack reminders.

Current measures covering Tokyo and neighboring areas, Aichi in central Japan and Nagasaki in the south were originally due to end on Sunday but will remain until March 6, Kishida said.

“Infections caused by the omicron variant are different from those in the past, and we are at a critical juncture in our fight against it,” Kishida said. “In order to balance anti-virus measures and social and economic activity, I am determined to deal with the situation quickly.”

Cases are still expanding, although the pace is not as fast as it was weeks ago, he said.

Nationwide, Japan recorded more than 92,000 confirmed cases on Tuesday. Tokyo reported 18,287 on Wednesday, while Osaka had 15,264.

Kishida’s decision follows requests from governors of affected areas, where daily cases are beginning to overwhelm hospitals with more serious cases among the elderly. There are also staffing shortages among medical workers who are infected or in close contact with those who test positive.

The measures are a less strict version of the state of emergency and have been extended and extended since January. They include shorter working hours for restaurants in exchange for government subsidies and restrictions on major public events.

Japan has resisted the use of lockdowns as the government seeks to minimize damage to the economy. Even so, the Japanese are becoming increasingly uncooperative when it comes to social distancing and other restrictions.

Kishida has been criticized for the delayed and slow deployments of the recalls, which did not begin until December with medical personnel. So far, only 7.2% of the population have received their shots.

Kishida pledged this week to ramp up booster shots to 1million shots a day by the end of February, but critics say the momentum will be lost by the time vaccination rates reach effective levels .

The recall campaign was delayed because the government was slow to decide to reduce the eight-month interval between the first two vaccines and a third, even though it was possible for local municipalities with an excess of vaccines to start administering reminders sooner.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike criticized Kishida for insisting on waiting for vaccine supplies to be delivered to all municipalities so they could start with boosters at the same time.

In Osaka, Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura declared a “medical emergency” after the prefecture’s hospital occupancy rate exceeded 80%.

Yoshimura, in his online talks with Kishida, asked for government support to deploy medical workers from government hospitals.

Kishida pledged help and offered a plan to set up temporary medical facilities in Osaka and Tokyo to provide care for a total of 1,000 patients.

Nearly half a million people with no or mild symptoms are staying at home across the country.

Stringent border controls in place until the end of February have also drawn criticism from international students, academics and business leaders who say the measures are unscientific and damage international profile, Japan’s economy and future.

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