Saturday, December 9

Japan Tries to Curb Wave of Covid Cases Linked to US Military Bases | Japan

Japan will introduce limits on the opening hours of bars and restaurants in three areas in a bid to stop a surge in coronavirus cases that has been linked to US military bases.

The measures, officially described as a quasi state of emergency, will take effect from Sunday until the end of the month in Okinawa, home to more than half of the US service personnel based in Japan and parts of the western Hiroshima prefectures. and Yamaguchi, which is also home to US troops.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has come under increasing pressure this week to address the outbreaks that began at US military installations last month and have since spread to the local civilian population.

US military authorities announced stricter Covid-19 measures on Thursday, including the mandatory use of off-base masks and more stringent testing regimes.

New cases have risen in Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost prefecture, since the beginning of the year, from 51 last Saturday to a record 1,414 on Friday. Those figures do not include new infections found among US military personnel and their families.

“This number is likely to remain high and steadily increase,” said Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, who has publicly criticized the US military for its response to the outbreaks on local bases.

Tamaki now has the power to ask Okinawan restaurants and bars to reduce their opening hours. While the measures are voluntary, establishments that refuse to comply may face fines.

The measures approved Friday will be the first in Japan since last September, when a dramatic drop in cases prompted the government to end months of restrictions in many parts of the country.

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Infections have also increased in the largest cities. Tokyo reported 922 new cases on Friday, the most since Sept. 15, prompting officials to order restaurants to reduce the number of people in diner groups from eight to four.

Coronavirus cases in Japan

While the number of coronavirus cases in Japan is much lower than in the US, UK, and other comparable countries, experts said people should expect a steady rise in infections, including those of the Omicron variant. highly transmissible.

“Given the sudden rise in infections, the medical system is at risk of being heavily burdened in the near future,” Daishiro Yamagiwa, Japan’s minister in charge of responses to Covid-19, said at a meeting of the panel of the government.

New infections topped 4,000 in Japan on Thursday, compared with an average of around 200 a day last month. The Omicron variant was identified in 80% of Japan’s 47 prefectures, weeks after the country imposed a ban on all overseas arrivals except Japanese citizens and returning foreign residents.

“There are cases where there is no history of travel abroad and the route of infection is unknown, while the Delta strain also continues to spread,” said Shigeyuki Goto, the Minister of Health. “We must be prepared for the rapid spread of infections in the future.”

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