Japan to expand virus emergency to seven more regions

Japan is set to expand a coronavirus stateof emergency on Wednesday to seven more regions including the major cities ofOsaka and Kyoto, as infections surge nationwide, reports AFP.

While the country’s outbreak remains comparatively small, with around 4,100deaths overall, there has been a sharp spike in cases this winter and medicssay hospitals are under heavy strain in the worst-affected areas.

The month-long emergency measure — which unlike strict lockdowns elsewherein the world carries no enforcement mechanism — was implemented in thegreater Tokyo area last week.

It asks restaurants and bars to close by 8 pm, with residents requested toavoid unnecessary outings and telework strongly encouraged.

“We want to have a declining trend in infections by February 7, by allmeans,” said Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of Japan’s pandemicresponse, referring to the period’s planned end date.

The move, expected to be announced by Prime Minister YoshihideSuga thisevening, means that, from Thursday, 11 of the country’s 47 prefectures will be under the state of emergency — accounting for about 60 percent of its GDP.

They range from central Aichi, an industrial and commercial hub, to Fukuokain the southwest and Osaka, which has reported record new cases in recent days along with neighbouring Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures.

The law does not currently allow authorities to enforce the requests,although the government is planning legislation to fine businesses that do not comply.

It comes just over six months before the virus-postponed Tokyo Olympics aredue to open. Suga has insisted he is committed to holding the Games thissummer, despite polls showing widespread public opposition.