Government adds 18 prefectures to quasi-emergency list

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Cabinet Office State Minister Hitoshi Kikawada addresses an expert panel in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo on Tuesday.

The quasi-emergency measures to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus will be applied to 18 more prefectures, including Hokkaido, Osaka, and Fukuoka, the government decided Tuesday.

The so-called priority measures are scheduled to take effect in the prefectures on Thursday and run through Feb. 20. Of the 47 prefectures in Japan, 34 will be under restrictions from Thursday.

An expert panel approved a proposal to apply priority measures to the 18 prefectures at a meeting on the government’s basic coronavirus pandemic policy on Tuesday.

“The rapid spread of infections may put a heavy burden on the health care system,” Hitoshi Kikawada, state minister at the Cabinet Office, said at the meeting. “We need to take measures to prevent the spread of infection as soon as possible.”

The 18 prefectures where priority measures will take effect on Thursday comprise Hokkaido, Aomori, Yamagata, Fukushima, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Shizuoka, Ishikawa, Nagano, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Okayama, Shimane, Fukuoka, Saga, Oita and Kagoshima.

The panel also approved extending the measures through Feb. 20 for Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Okinawa prefectures, where they were scheduled to expire at the end of this month.

In 13 prefectures, including Tokyo, Kanagawa and Aichi, the measures are scheduled to end on Feb. 13.

A revised draft of measures to be included in the government’s pandemic policy was also presented at the panel meeting, including a provision recommending the use of non-woven masks, which are said to be more effective at blocking respiratory droplets than other masks, based on the fact that the omicron variant is highly contagious.

Under the priority measures, certified restaurants will be asked to shorten their operating hours and close by 9 p.m. — prefectural governors will decide whether eateries can serve alcohol — and event capacity will be capped at 20,000 for venues where thorough infection prevention measures are in place.