Japan further expands COVID-19 emergency areas as cases surge

Posted at 1:05 AM, Aug 25, 2021

Japan expanded its coronavirus state of emergency for a second week in a row, adding several more prefectures as a surge in infections fueled by the delta variant strains the country’s health care system.

The government last week extended the state of emergency until Sept. 12 and expanded the areas covered to 13 prefectures from six including Tokyo. With four new prefectures added to a separate “quasi-emergency” status, 33 of Japan’s 47 prefectures are now under some type of emergency measures.

The government at a meeting of experts Wednesday upgraded eight prefectures from quasi-emergency status to a full state of emergency. Those prefectures include Hokkaido and Miyagi in the north, Aichi and Gifu in central Japan, and Hiroshima and Okayama in the west.

“In order to protect the people’s lives, the priority is to maintain the health care system,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said as he announced the emergency. “In order to overcome this crisis led by the delta strain, I seek further cooperation from everyone.”

Japan’s state of emergency relies on requirements for restaurants to close at 8 p.m. and not serve alcohol, though businesses have been defying those rules.

Wednesday's ruling further extends the state of emergency the country declared prior to hosting the Olympic Games in Tokyo in late July and early August and comes as the Paralympic Games open this week.