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Tokyo and nearby prefectures decided Wednesday to extend their requests for businesses to shorten operating hours until next month as part of efforts to curb the risk of a rebound of the novel coronavirus in the metropolitan area.

The governors of Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures agreed in an online meeting to continue asking restaurants and other businesses to stop serving alcohol by 8 p.m. and close by 9 p.m. until April 21.

No local orders, however, will stop the cherry trees from blooming, and concerns are rising that infections will spread as people go out for their annual hanami outings to look at the blossoms and eat and drink under the trees. Visiting two of Tokyo’s key hanami spots, Eriko Yamakuma asked visitors for their views on how to enjoy the blossoms safely.

Deep Dive podcast, Episode 87: Half a million and counting — Japan's rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine | THE JAPAN TIMES
Deep Dive podcast, Episode 87: Half a million and counting — Japan’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine | THE JAPAN TIMES

As for the path out of this seemingly endless period of self-restraint, in Japan only around half a million people have been vaccinated to date, which makes it one of the slowest vaccination programs among developed nations.

Bloomberg reporter Lisa Du joins Oscar Boyd on the latest Deep Dive podcast to discuss how Japan’s vaccine rollout has gone so far, and the challenges the program may face going forward.

Wednesday’s (and last Wednesday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (40 or over): Tokyo 420 (409), Osaka 262 (147), Miyagi 171 (107), Kanagawa 128 (93), Saitama 121 (132), Hyogo 118 (74), Chiba 108 (91), Hokkaido 81 (73), Aichi 74 (48), Okinawa 68 (35), Ibaraki 45 (40). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker

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