The government placed three prefectures under a quasi-state of emergency on Sunday in response to a surge in COVID-19 infections that local governors say are linked to the spread of the omicron variant at U.S. military bases.
The quasi-emergency measures will be effective until Jan. 31 in Okinawa and parts of Yamaguchi and Hiroshima, allowing prefectural governments to strengthen their anti-coronavirus steps and request that dining establishments shorten their business hours and stop serving alcohol.
The measure, the first under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who took office in October, comes at a time when medical experts warn of a sixth wave of infections in the country and a renewed strain on the medical system.
Following a cluster of infections at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Hansen in Okinawa and a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases at a different base in the western prefecture of Yamaguchi near Hiroshima, local officials and some health experts now believe such outbreaks have spilled into nearby areas and beyond.
The entire Okinawa Prefecture will be under the quasi-emergency, while only certain cities will be subject to the same restrictions in Hiroshima and Yamaguchi, which hosts the Iwakuni U.S. Marine Corps Air Station.
Under the emergency, the three prefectures request dining establishments in areas comply with restrictions to shorten business hours and limit group dining to four people or less.
Yamaguchi and Hiroshima prefectures are also asking establishments to stop serving alcohol, while Okinawa will allow restaurants and bars certified as taking sufficient antivirus measures to serve alcohol until 8 p.m.
Yamaguchi Gov. Tsugumasa Muraoka told reporters Saturday that his government may have to consider tougher measures if the situation in the prefecture continues to worsen.
Community transmission of the omicron variant has been confirmed in major cities in Japan, including Tokyo and Osaka, with the nationwide tally of infections hitting a four-month high of more than 8,000 on Saturday.
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