Japanese health authorities are concerned that variants of the coronavirus may be driving a nascent fourth wave of the pandemic, Reuters reports.
A COVID-19 variant first discovered in Britain has taken hold in the Osaka region, spreading faster and filling up hospital beds with more serious cases than the original virus, according to a government adviser on the pandemic.
In a measure to avoid bed shortages as variant cases spread, the health ministry has decided to allow symptom-free or mildly ill people infected with new variants of the coronavirus to isolate themselves at designated hotels instead of hospitals.
With quasi-emergency measures now covering six cities in three prefectures, the government started Monday to provide varying amounts of aid, depending on size, to eating and drinking establishments that accept requests to cut opening hours. The previous system, under which up to ¥60,000 was paid per day for each outlet, was unpopular with big operators.
Also from today, Kyoto Prefecture is asking restaurants and bars in 16 areas to move up their closing times to 9 p.m. or earlier. Although Kyoto is not one of the designated cities where special measures are in place, the surrounding prefecture borders Osaka and Hyogo, where five of those six cities are located.
Monday’s (and last Monday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (50 or over): Osaka 345 (213), Tokyo 249 (234), Chiba 88 (110), Hyogo 87 (70), Saitama 86 (102), Hokkaido 71 (46), Nara 71 (18), Kanagawa 68 (93), Miyagi 55 (80), Okinawa 50 (42). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker