Govt eyes new pandemic framework in anticipation of 8th wave

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The government plans to create a framework under which prefectural governors will be able to ask residents to refrain from going out or traveling to prevent healthcare facilities from becoming overwhelmed in the event of an eighth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The framework features a four-tier system to assess the infection status in prefectures. Prefectural governors will decide the level based on bed occupancy rates and factors such as the number of coronavirus cases in their region.

Under the framework, Level 3, the second-most severe tier, corresponds to a bed occupancy rate exceeding 50% and coronavirus cases at or exceeding levels during the seventh wave. Under such circumstances, prefectural governors will be able to issue an official declaration to strengthen infection prevention measures and ask residents to refrain from visiting areas with high infection risks.

However, the requests are not legally enforceable.

Governors will be able to declare a “state of medical emergency” if infections continue to surge after making such a request. They will also be able to ask residents to refrain from social trips, event organizers to delay events and companies to drastically reduce the number of employees in offices, among other requests. However, schools will continue holding classes, and restaurants and commercial facilities will not be asked to shorten their business hours.

Level 4, which the government has described as a “tier that should not be reached,” corresponds to a bed occupancy rate exceeding 80%, among other conditions.

“A fresh wave of infections is coming,” warned Shigeru Omi, the chairman of the government’s pandemic subcommittee, after meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday.