With the COVID-19 pandemic worsening in areas of Japan beyond the capital, the government is expected to extend the nation’s second state of emergency Wednesday to cover Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures in the Kansai region, as well as Aichi and Gifu prefectures.

Media reports also said Tochigi and Fukuoka prefectures would be brought under the declaration, too, after they called on the central government Tuesday to expand the state of emergency there.

Speaking at a meeting of Liberal Democratic Party executives Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the government was preparing to extend its emergency declaration to Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo. The governors of the three prefectures in the Kansai region asked the central government last week to declare a state of emergency for the region, following a rise in novel coronavirus cases and a growing shortage of hospital beds.

A government source later said that Gifu and Aichi prefectures would be added to the emergency declaration, as well.

“Beginning with Osaka, we’ll look at the situation in prefectures where the situation is serious and, after consulting experts, promptly decide on (whether to declare) a state of emergency,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, the government spokesperson, told reporters after the meeting.

As cases continue to rise nationwide and local medical facilities come under increasing strain, other prefectures, including Kumamoto, are also considering whether to issue a similar request to the central government.

On Monday, 4,872 new cases of COVID-19 were reported nationwide, according to a Kyodo News tally.

Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura welcomed the announcement Tuesday. “The central government has made a quick decision, and we will cooperate to stop the spread of the virus,” Yoshimura told reporters.

The state of emergency is expected to be applied to the three prefectures days after it was declared for Tokyo and the prefectures of Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa on Thursday. At that time, the central government said that a spike in coronavirus infection rates over the New Year’s holiday had severely stretched local medical facilities and was affecting regular medical care as well.

All three Kansai prefectures warned that, in addition to COVID-19 cases, the number of influenza cases was also rising, and asked the government to consider emergency measures to deal with the flu outbreak.

Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura speaks during an online meeting with the governors of Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures on Saturday in the city of Osaka. | KYODO
Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura speaks during an online meeting with the governors of Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures on Saturday in the city of Osaka. | KYODO

As of Monday, 71.6% of hospital beds in Osaka Prefecture for seriously ill patients were occupied, prefectural officials said. The previous seven days had seen 3,874 new cases in the prefecture.

In neighboring Hyogo, 154 new cases were recorded Monday. Prefectural officials said that, as of Sunday, 75.7% of hospital beds in the area were occupied, including 59.5% of beds reserved for seriously ill patients.

Kyoto reported 142 new cases on Monday, following a record 147 infections on Friday, including 21 severely ill patients. Kyoto says that if more than 30 of its novel coronavirus patients become seriously ill, its medical care system will face a critical situation.

Prior to asking the central government to declare a state of emergency, all three prefectures had issued their own local emergency declarations until Feb. 7. Residents were asked to stay within their prefecture if possible and to avoid traveling to other areas of the country that are under a national state of emergency, like the Tokyo area.

Local restaurants and bars had been asked to close at 9 p.m. and were being offered cash incentives to follow what are voluntary requests from the prefecture, and not legally binding directives. Kyoto was offering businesses that cooperated ¥40,000 per day.

Osaka Prefecture had been offering the same to eating and drinking establishments that shut their doors at 9 p.m. But on Tuesday, Yoshimura announced that from Thursday the amount would be increased to ¥60,000 per day until Feb. 7, and that establishments serving alcohol would be asked to close at 8 p.m.

In addition to the Tokyo area, Kansai and the Tokai region, other prefectural governors are also calling on the government to further expand the national state of emergency.

In the Kyushu region, Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima said Monday the most effective way to deal with the spread of the virus would be for the central government to declare a state of emergency across the prefectures of Kyushu. He added that he would discuss the possibility of making such a request with other prefectural leaders.

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