Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Thursday new COVID-19 countermeasures will be imposed for one month beginning Monday in Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures amid fears of a fourth wave of the coronavirus.

The new countermeasures — often referred to as manbо̄, the shortened version of its full name in Japanese — allow local leaders to deploy restrictions, albeit less strict than during a state of emergency, in the hopes of preventing the need for stronger steps, explains Ryusei Takahashi.

Osaka Prefecture reported 616 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, confirming over 600 cases for the first time since Jan. 16, as the city of Osaka was set to be subjected to the new virus countermeasures.

COVID-19: Japan to impose emergency measures in Osaka | CNA
COVID-19: Japan to impose emergency measures in Osaka | CNA

The Tokyo Olympic torch relay section due to be held in the city of Osaka later this month will be canceled due to the sharp rebound in infections, officials said Thursday. Just a week after the start of the relay, the event, which is aimed at boosting enthusiasm for the Olympics, appears to be losing steam.

Japanese celebrities also appear to have no burning desire to be associated with the relay, with many pouring cold water on the traditional pre-Olympics celebration. Some have politely declined, citing scheduling conflicts, while others have said they want to avoid crowds.

Thursday’s (and last Thursday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (50 or over): Osaka 616 (266), Tokyo 475 (394), Hyogo 199 (100), Kanagawa 133 (121), Miyagi 133 (161), Saitama 132 (113), Chiba 101 (98), Okinawa 93 (77), Aichi 83 (79), Hokkaido 57 (67), Kyoto 56 (24). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker