Home National & International News Japan panel to approve widening of Covid curbs

Japan panel to approve widening of Covid curbs

by Vaishali Sharma

As omicron instances have increased and threatened to disrupt vital services such as hospitals and schools, Japan’s government wants to declare pre-emergency status for the majority of the country and extend COVID-19 restrictions.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on Monday that anti-virus measures will be tightened in 18 more prefectures through February 20, ranging from Hokkaido in the north to Osaka and Kyoto in western Japan. This will be in addition to locations such as Tokyo, Okinawa, Yamaguchi, and Hiroshima, where comparable limitations are already in place or will be expanded.

“Many people are feeling increasingly uneasy as the infections rapidly spread,” Kishida told reporters. “I want to obtain the people’s cooperation to overcome this crisis.” Kishida said he will officially announce the measures Tuesday after consulting with a government panel that includes health experts. Kishida added that the government has ordered COVID-19 test kit makers to boost production so that testing capacity can be increased to 800,000 per day, in the face of persistent shortages in Japan.
In some areas where test kits have run out, the health ministry said COVID-19 patients can be diagnosed based on symptoms, without tests. Under the latest measures, most eateries are asked to close by latest 9 pm in exchange for government subsidies, with some restrictions on large public events. Critics say the measures, which almost exclusively target bars and restaurants, make little sense and are unfair.
has resisted the use of lockdowns to limit the spread of the virus as the government seeks to minimise damage to the  Even so, Japanese are increasingly becoming less cooperative to social distancing and other restrictions. Tough border controls that are scheduled to last through the end of February have also triggered criticism from foreign students and scholars who say the measures are not scientific. Surging infections have already begun to paralyse hospitals, schools and other sectors in some areas.
The health ministry said more than 300 nursery schools had to be closed because of the high number of children, as well as staff infected or their colleagues who were forced into self-isolation after close contact with confirmed cases. So far, hospitals are not overflowing as in earlier waves, but experts say the rapid upsurge of the cases could overwhelm the medical system once the infections spread among the elderly population who are more likely to become seriously ill.
While about 80% of Japanese have received their first two vaccine doses, the rollout of booster shots has been slow and has reached only 1.9 % of the population so far. Tokyo logged 8,503 new cases Monday, double from a week ago. Nationwide, nearly 45,000 virus cases were reported for an accumulated total of about 2 million, with about 18,500 deaths

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