Tokyo—Japan’s government said on Thursday it plans to extend emergency COVID-19 restrictions in Tokyo and other regions in a bid to curb infections and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, saying it is still too early to let down its guard.
Japan has been struggling with a fifth wave of the virus and last month extended its long-running curbs until Sunday to cover about 80 percent of its population.
However, the number of severe cases and the strain on the medical system have not eased sufficiently in Tokyo and surrounding areas to allow the restrictions to be lifted.
The government will seek to extend the measures until Sept. 30, including for the capital Tokyo and the second city of Osaka, Economic Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a government meeting. The plans must be ratified by a panel of experts and others.
“We need to reinforce the medical system by reducing infections,” Nishimura said.
Some signs of improvement around the nation mean that two prefectures out of 21 will move from the state of emergency measures to lesser restrictions, while a number of other prefectures will remove all restrictions, he added.
A formal decision will be made later on Thursday and announced by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at a news conference.
The Nikkei daily, meanwhile, reported that the government is moving towards easing international entry restrictions by reducing the amount of time people returning from overseas need to quarantine from the current 14 days to 10 if they have had vaccines approved by the Japanese government.
Local media said other measures, such as allowing restaurants to extend their opening hours and easing restrictions on alcohol sales, could be introduced as the number of vaccinations in the nation rise.
“I believe we’re starting to see results, but it’s still too early to lower our guard,” Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said at the meeting.
Japan’s vaccine rollout took place later than with many other nations but roughly half of the population has now been fully vaccinated.
Tokyo’s new daily coronavirus infections totaled 1,834 on Wednesday. The country has reported around 1.6 million cases in total and 16,436 deaths.
By Elaine Lies