Quasi-emergency measures in Okinawa may end Sunday

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
People line up to receive PCR tests in Naha in January.

The central government is considering allowing quasi-emergency priority measures in Okinawa Prefecture to end as scheduled on Sunday without further extension, according to government sources.

The decision is expected to be finalized this week.

If they expire, it will be the first time for such measures for the sixth wave of novel coronavirus infections to end, after they were first introduced for Okinawa and two other prefectures on Jan. 9 due to the spread of the omicron variant.

The number of new cases has been on a decline in Okinawa. As of Sunday, the number of weekly new cases was 13% lower than that of the previous week. The Okinawa prefectural government plans to discuss on Wednesday whether to ask the central government to end the priority measures.

The current priority measures, first enforced in Okinawa, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures, are in place in 36 prefectures, 21 of which are scheduled to see them end on Sunday.

New infection cases are also in decline in Hiroshima and Yamaguchi, and the central government is cautiously considering whether to extend the measures in those prefectures, where they are also due to end on Sunday.

As for Shizuoka, Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo prefectures, the central government is planning to extend the measures beyond Sunday. Hospital bed occupancy rates are high in all four prefectures, leading the government to increasingly believe that it will be difficult to end the measures there.

In Osaka Prefecture, the hospital bed occupancy rate was 104% as of Monday, with the critical care bed occupancy rate at 36%, based on the prefectural standard. Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura on Monday told reporters that he would not ask the central government to declare a state of emergency at that point, but he also said, “Ending the priority measures is not an option.”

The governors of Shizuoka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures had each announced by Monday their intentions to request extensions of the priority measures.

For the remaining 14 prefectures where the measures are set to end on Sunday, the central government will decide whether or not to extend them based on the intentions of each prefecture.