Japan puts 18 more prefectures under COVID-19 pre-emergency

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The government’s COVID-19 pre-emergency designation took effect in 18 more prefectures Thursday following the rapid spread of the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.

In areas covered by the designation, eateries and bars are basically asked to close by 8 p.m., while those certified by local governments as taking required coronavirus prevention measures can stay open until 9 p.m. Group dining is limited to four people per table in principle.

The 18 prefectures are Hokkaido, Aomori, Yamagata, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Ishikawa, Nagano, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Shimane, Okayama, Fukuoka, Saga, Oita and Kagoshima. The designation will be effective until Feb. 20.

The pre-emergency for Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Okinawa prefectures that started on Jan. 9 was extended until Feb. 20 from the previously planned expiration at the end of this month.

The pre-emergency designation now covers 34 of the country’s 47 prefectures.

The serving of alcohol is allowed at certified restaurants and bars in most of the areas under the pre-emergency state.

This time, the government partially revised its basic policy on coronavirus measures, recommending the use of nonwoven fabric masks, rather than urethane masks, as the omicron variant is highly infectious.

The government also changed its policy on seeing doctors, calling on young people at low risk of developing severe symptoms to visit medical institutions after taking coronavirus tests, if seeking medical advice may take time due to congestion.

If outpatient services get overwhelmed by infection surges, people suspected to be infected are allowed to self-isolate at home without seeing a doctor.