Asia/Pacific

Japan expanding restrictions amid COVID-19 surge

Numerous municipalities in Japan will be placed under expanded COVID-19 restrictions starting at the end of this week amid a surge in cases spurred by the omicron variant.

“We have decided that it is now necessary to prepare so that medical systems can firmly function, take appropriate measures and slow rising case numbers,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, according to The Associated Press.

Beginning on Friday, dozens of areas in Japan including Tokyo will be placed under a three-week restraint set to end on Feb. 13.

Under this new order, the governors of cities like Tokyo will be permitted to ask restaurants and bars to close early and to stop serving alcohol at a certain time.

As the AP noted, Japan has been reluctant to use lockdowns in its efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, having allowed social and business activities to return to some normalcy since the end of a case surge in September.

Earlier this month, U.S. troops in Japan were asked to refrain from leaving base except when absolutely necessary in order to mitigate the spread of the virus. U.S. military members were asked to limit their time off base to only “essential activities” for 14 days.

There are also concerns that the most recent surge in cases will strain Japan’s hospital system. As the AP reported, the rise in cases has not yet impacted hospitals, but Japanese authorities warned that they must prepare for such a possibility.

“We need to quickly prevent the spread of infections, given the potential for a major strain on the medical system in the near future,” Japanese Economy Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa said, according to Kyodo News.

Asia/Pacific