The government plans to give novel coronavirus quasi-emergency status to five more prefectures where new infections are increasing, informed sources said Thursday.
The five prefectures are: Gunma in eastern Japan; central Ishikawa; neighbors Okayama and Hiroshima in the west; and southwestern Kumamoto, the sources said. In quasi-emergency areas, countermeasures similar to those under a state of emergency can be taken.
The government is considering letting the designation for the five prefectures take effect on Sunday and run until June 13, according to the sources. The decision will be made at a meeting of the government’s coronavirus response headquarters on Friday after hearing from experts earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, the government is expected to forgo declaring a state of emergency for now for the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, which is seeing a spike in infection numbers, the sources said.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met with economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is in charge of the government’s coronavirus response, and others on Thursday to discuss the issues.
“The government has received requests for pre-emergency designation from several prefectures,” Suga told reporters after the meeting, adding, “We’ll make a decision after collecting opinions from experts (on Friday).”
On Hokkaido, he said: “The prefecture was given pre-emergency status only days ago. It’s important that we decide what to do next after determining whether countermeasures now being taken are effective or not.”
The Okayama prefectural government on Wednesday asked the national government for quasi-emergency designation. A central government official said that the state of infections in Okayama is “very severe” and stressed the need to grant the designation to the prefecture.
“We want to thoroughly share our ideas and cooperate with local authorities concerned,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a press conference Thursday.
Currently, eight prefectures are in a quasi-emergency stage that is slated to be effective until May 31.
The northeastern prefecture of Fukushima, the western prefecture of Kagawa and the southwestern prefecture of Nagasaki are also seeking quasi-emergency status. The central government is expected to carefully study their inclusion.
Hokkaido, which was placed under the coronavirus quasi-emergency status on Sunday, marked a record daily high of 712 new infection cases on Thursday.
But the national government is cautious at the moment about putting Hokkaido under a state of emergency, as there has yet to be a request from its governor and the strengthening of current measures are seen as being enough to curb infections, according to people familiar with the matter.
Currently, Tokyo, the central prefecture of Aichi, the western prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, and the southwestern prefecture of Fukuoka are under a national government-declared coronavirus state of emergency, the third of its kind in Japan. It is slated to last until the end of May.
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