TOKYO (Reuters) – The Japanese government is seeking to extend a state of emergency in Tokyo and three other areas until the end of May, in an effort to curb a surge in coronavirus cases with fewer than three months before the start of the Tokyo Olympics.
Japan had hoped a “short and powerful” state of emergency would contain a fourth wave of infections, but Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said new cases in Tokyo and Osaka are still at a high level.
Extending the state of emergency to May 31 leaves a margin of less than two months before the Games, which are due to start on July 23 after being postponed by a year over the pandemic.
“Osaka particularly is in quite a dangerous situation,” Nishimura said at the start of a meeting with a panel of experts.
Aichi and Fukuoka prefectures will also be newly added to the areas under the state of emergency, while the northern island of Hokkaido and two other areas will be added to regions with a “quasi state of emergency.”
Under the extended state of emergency, bars, restaurants, karaoke parlours and other places serving alcohol will be asked to close and people are being asked to continue to avoid unnecessary trips outside their homes.
The proposed measures are expected to be approved later on Friday.
Japan has not suffered as badly from the virus as other nations, but its vaccination campaign is lagging badly, with even many elderly people still waiting for inoculations.
Still, Japan and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) insist the Olympics will go on, although foreign spectators have been banned. A decision on domestic spectators has yet to be reached.
The governor of southwestern Fukuoka prefecture was quoted by Jiji news agency as saying late on Thursday that it could be “difficult” to hold the Olympic torch relay there under a state of emergency. The torch relay is set to take place there on May 11 and 12.
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