Published: Thu, January 14, 2021

Japan expands virus emergency, tightens border restrictions

Japan expands virus emergency, tightens border restrictions

"Unless we rein in infections in big cities, we can't stop the spread nationally", Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said at a meeting with an advisory panel, which approved the plan on Wednesday.

The country reported 4,527 new cases and 51 deaths Tuesday, bringing the national total to nearly 300,000, with a death toll of 4,158.

Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday expanded the state of emergency in seven more prefectures, amid a resurgence of the pandemic novel coronavirus cases across the country. The measure will continue as long as the declaration of a state of emergency is effective.

The expected addition of Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Fukuoka, Aichi, Gifu and Tochigi prefectures to the state of emergency would cover about 55 percent of Japan's population.

The new declaration, which adds seven other prefectures in western and central Japan, takes effect Thursday and lasts until February 7.

The cumulative total has been growing at an accelerated pace, topping the threshold of 300,000 only some three weeks after surpassing 200,000 on December 21 past year.

But the government decided on the full suspension as the virus is surging in Japan.

Three separate media polls last weekend showed eight in 10 Japanese were against the Games taking place, while disapproval for Mr Suga's Cabinet exceeded support.

Suga took office in mid-September and pledged to keep the infections under control while also getting the economy back on track.

Japan has repeatedly insisted it will hold the Games despite opinion polls showing a majority of respondents want them postponed again or cancelled.

Despite the current surge in infections, Japan has reported far fewer infections than many countries of its size. The law does not now allow authorities to enforce the requests, although the government is planning legislation to fine businesses that do not comply.

As for additional steps the government might take in the event that the current measures fail to curb the spread of the virus, Suga did not provide any details, merely reiterating the current measures that are being implemented.

Japanese coronavirus measures have relied heavily on widespread mask wearing, contact tracing and other safety measures. Stage 4 means an explosive growth in new cases, while in stage 3 new cases are surging. Another variant was also detected in four people arriving from Brazil this week.

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