Japan is declaring a state of emergency in three more prefectures hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest declaration comes as Japan grapples with a surge of a more infectious virus strain just 10 weeks before the Tokyo Olympics are due to start on 23 July.
Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is also in charge of virus countermeasures, said today that, Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima will join Tokyo, Osaka and four other prefectures on Sunday under a state of emergency until 31 May.
With an eye on the economy, the government had originally proposed a more targeted quasi-emergency declaration for five additional prefectures.
The latest measures bring 19 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, home to about 70 per cent of the population, under curbs such as an 8 pm closing deadline for eateries and a ban on alcohol at most bars and restaurants.
Experts say medical resources are being pushed to the brink, while Japan’s inoculation drive has been the slowest among advanced nations, with just 3 per cent of the population vaccinated.
The state of emergency in Tokyo and elsewhere would run through this month, leaving fewer than two months until the Olympics.
Nishimura repeated the government’s stance that it would do its utmost to contain the pandemic to be able to hold a safe and secure Games.