| 26 September 2022, Monday |

Japan poised to widen COVID-19 controls as Omicron drives record infections

On Wednesday, Japan was prepared to expand COVID-19 regulations to include half of the population as the Omicron variety pushes new infections to record levels.

Following the approval of an expert panel, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is anticipated to officially endorse the idea.

The so-called quasi-emergency measures allow governors to put restrictions on movement and business, such as shortened hours for pubs and restaurants and limits on alcohol sales.
The regulations, which are currently in place in three regions, will be expanded to encompass Tokyo and 12 other prefectures from Friday until February 13.

According to a calculation by national broadcaster NHK, Japan recorded more than 32,000 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, beating the previous peak set in August just after Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics.

Osaka’s western prefecture reported a record 5,396 new cases, while Tokyo had 5,185, the most since Aug. 21.

Omicron is more contagious than prior coronavirus strains, although it appears to produce fewer severe illnesses. Nonetheless, public health specialists are afraid that a surge of Omicron cases would overwhelm the hospital system.

Japan has vaccinated over 80% of its population against COVID-19, but its booster injection program is still in its early stages.

After base outbreaks of Omicron looked to have spread into nearby towns, Japan announced quasi-emergency limits in three districts hosting US military sites this month.

The occupancy rate of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in Tokyo jumped to 23.4 percent on Tuesday, according to a carefully followed statistic. Officials have stated that a rise of 50% would necessitate the establishment of a complete state of emergency.

  • Reuters