The government has started preparations to expand a state of emergency to the western prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, reports said Monday. The move comes as Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura said he plans to work with Gifu Prefecture to ask the government to also include their central prefectures in the emergency.

Medical facilities across Japan are struggling to cope with the recent surge in novel coronavirus infections, with the medical care system in many areas on the brink of collapse. Some hospitals have already been forced to turn patients away or postpone stays, while others are hoping the Tokyo-area state of emergency will reduce numbers in time for them to avoid similar measures.

With no sign of the third wave of the pandemic abating, the government is considering imposing criminal penalties on COVID-19 patients who refuse to be hospitalized, officials said Friday. Patients who won’t help public health centers tasked with figuring out infection routes may also be prosecuted under the plan.

Japan reports new COVID-19 variant, different from variants stemming from U.K. and South Africa [from Monday's T5] | ARIRANG NEWS
Japan reports new COVID-19 variant, different from variants stemming from U.K. and South Africa [from Monday’s T5] | ARIRANG NEWS

Under the state of emergency through Feb. 7 covering Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures, people have been asked to avoid nonurgent outings, but little change was seen in the flow of commuters at major train stations in the region on Friday, Jiji reports, in stark contrast to the stricter emergency last year.

Japan’s two major domestic airlines are paring down their schedules, but only by about 20-25% from the number of flights in December. Shinkansen operator JR Central is cutting its services that pass through Tokyo by around 10%.

Monday’s (and Sunday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (50 or over): Tokyo 1,219 (1,494), Kanagawa 695 (729), Osaka 480 (532), Saitama 347 (414), Chiba 340 (388), Fukuoka 212 (284), Aichi 198 (343), Hyogo 154 (269), Kyoto 142 (146), Hokkaido 135 (188), Tochigi 106 (118), Nagano 73 (68), Ibaraki 67 (84), Hiroshima 62 (53), Kumamoto 57 (82), Shizuoka 53 (127), Okayama 52 (32), Gifu 50 (64). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker