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Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa to take tougher measures to fight coronavirus

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The Japanese government will decide on Friday to place Tokyo plus the prefectures of Kyoto and Okinawa under the near-emergency phase of the new coronavirus following a resurgence of cases of infection in this country.

The stage, under which powerful “priority” measures can be taken under a recently revised law, is expected to run from Monday to May 11 in Tokyo and through May 5 in Kyoto and Okinawa.

The decision will be made on Friday at a meeting of the headquarters of the government responsible for the fight against coronaviruses, led by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government plans to take the priority actions mainly in the 23 densely populated special wards and in the nearby city of Musashino, informed sources said.

The measures will likely also be implemented in the eponymous capital of Kyoto in western Japan and the Okinawa capital Naha in the far south of Japan.

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As part of these measures, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is considering asking restaurants and bars in designated areas to extend their closing hours to 8 p.m. or earlier, as was the case under the second COVID-19 state of emergency. already expired from the central government.

Food and beverage establishments in Tokyo and neighboring Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures are due to close at 9 p.m. after the second state of emergency ends on March 21.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Thursday called for a near-urgent designation by the central government.

In response, Suga spoke with relevant ministers. He later told reporters that Tokyo would be placed under the near-emergency phase.

The central government also sees the need for powerful measures in Kyoto, neighboring Osaka Prefecture, where the virus is raging, and in Okinawa, where infections are spread widely among young people.

On Monday, the central government placed Osaka, neighboring Hyogo Prefecture and northeast Miyagi Prefecture under the near-emergency phase until May 5. They were the first to be placed under this designation.

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The revised Law on Special Measures to Combat Outbreaks of Infectious Diseases provides for powerful priority measures, such as compulsory measures, similar to those that can be taken in a state of emergency.

Restaurants and bars in affected areas could be fined up to 200,000 yen if they reject requests by local authorities to reduce opening hours.

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On Thursday, Koike said highly contagious coronavirus variants were spreading in the Kansai region, which includes Osaka and Hyogo.

She warned that the situation in Tokyo may soon resemble that of Osaka, where the daily number of newly confirmed cases of infection hit a record 905 on Thursday.

“We have made the request for pre-emergency designation in the light of crisis management,” she said, asking residents to avoid travel to other prefectures or between urban neighborhoods, to businesses to further promote teleworking and for students to refrain from having receptions or other parties.

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On Thursday, the Tokyo metropolitan government held a meeting to monitor the infectious situation in the capital.

Participants shared the view that the infection and medical preparedness situations in Tokyo are still at their most serious levels.

An expert warned of “an explosive growth in the number of infected people which exceeds the third wave of infections”.

Tokyo’s daily number of new infections rose to 545 on Thursday after surpassing 500 for the first time in just two months on Wednesday.

The seven-day average was 427.0 on Thursday, up 14.7% from a week’s level.

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