The government is making arrangements to add Okinawa Prefecture to the areas under its COVID-19 state of emergency declaration amid surging infections in the southern island region, a government source said Thursday.
The planned addition of Okinawa would bring the total number of prefectures under the emergency to 10. The move comes after Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki on Wednesday asked for his prefecture to be added as the spread of infections increasingly strains the health system.
"We are sharing information on the infection situation and the level of strain on the medical system with Okinawa Prefecture," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato at a news conference.
"Given there was a request from the prefecture, the government plans to swiftly consider" the inclusion of Okinawa, he added.
The government plans to impose the measure in Okinawa through early or mid-June, according to the source.
The government is expected to reject a request from the governor of Gifu Prefecture to be included in the emergency declaration, deeming the infection situation there as stable, the source said. A formal decision on the target area will be made Friday.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has already declared a state of emergency in nine prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka until May 31, with restaurants and bars being told to close by 8 p.m.
The plan to add Okinawa to the emergency declaration came as the prefecture reported record 203 new cases on Wednesday, up from 168 the previous day, with Tamaki saying the local health care system has been "in crisis."
The central government had initially been cautious about adding Okinawa as the prefecture has yet to ban eateries from serving alcoholic beverages. But it reversed its position after the prefecture reported more than 200 new cases with its weekly total up 1.52 times from the previous week.
An expert panel at the health ministry has pointed to the spread of infections among young people in Okinawa after the Golden Week holidays in early May and that it is likely to strain the medical system.
Currently, 16 municipalities in Okinawa are under a quasi-state of emergency, which allows governors to single out areas with such anti-virus measures as telling restaurants to close early, while the state of emergency covers entire prefectures and carries stricter steps, including the closure of commercial facilities.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.