Major Japanese telecommunications firms, including NTT Corp., have said they will restrict phone calls to local governments that accept reservations for COVID-19 vaccinations, beginning Monday.

The companies said Sunday that they are asking citizens to call again later if they have difficulty getting through. If local governments accept online reservations, citizens are advised to use the online system.

About 100 local governments each in the service areas of NTT East Corp. and NTT West Corp. plan to start accepting vaccination reservations on Monday, according to people familiar with the situation.

The restrictions are aimed at securing enough capacity for communications equipment and preventing adverse effects on emergency calls, including to police and fire departments, but may cause confusion as people look to make vaccination reservations.

Phone calls have been curbed in times of natural disaster and when the lines are flooded with ticket reservation calls for popular events, but it is very unusual for such measures to be announced beforehand.

For the restrictions, NTT will work in cooperation with KDDI Corp., SoftBank Corp. and Rakuten Mobile Inc.

If the lines to local governments’ reservation phone numbers are overloaded, voice guidance will be activated to tell callers of congestion or that the lines will be busy. Restrictions will be removed once the congestion issues are resolved.

On Thursday, NTT East imposed temporary restrictions on phone calls in the whole of Tokyo following a surge in the number of calls using fixed-line telephones. The rise is believed to have been caused by the start of vaccination reservations at local governments in the capital.

The telecoms firms will restrict phone calls only to vaccination reservation numbers on Monday so that other calls will not be affected.

According to NTT East, the local governments that will start accepting vaccination reservations on Monday include Hakodate, Hokkaido, the cities of Fukushima and Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima Prefecture, Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture, and Saku, Nagano Prefecture.

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