TOKYO: The Japanese government Monday expanded its novel coronavirus state of emergency, which has been in place in Tokyo and the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, to three prefectures neighboring Tokyo — Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba –and the western prefecture of Osaka.
Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Osaka had been in a pre-emergency stage over the epidemic until Sunday. The state of emergency for the six prefectures will last until Aug. 31. The emergency for Tokyo and Okinawa was earlier planned to end Aug. 22.
On Monday, the government also put five prefectures in a pre-emergency stage that will be effective until the end of August. The five are Hokkaido, northernmost Japan, Ishikawa in central Japan, Kyoto and Hyogo in western Japan, and Fukuoka in southwestern Japan.
Eating and drinking establishments in state of emergency and pre-emergency areas are requested to close by 8 p.m. Facilities in state of emergency areas are banned from serving alcoholic beverages. In pre-emergency areas, the serving of alcohol is prohibited in principle, but is allowed until 7 p.m. on condition of certain infection prevention measures being in place only if new infection cases are on a declining trend.
Local government officials are expected to visit eating and drinking facilities more frequently to make sure that they follow the requests related to operating hours and alcohol. People will continue to be asked to refrain from drinking alcohol on streets and at places such as parks.
With Japan in the summer holiday season, the government is concerned about an increase in the flows of people leading to a further spread of infections.
The government will call on the public to refrain from going out for nonessential purposes and work from home as much as possible. People will also be asked to watch the Tokyo Olympic Games on television at home.
The government will step up efforts to encourage young people to get vaccinated, aiming to have at least 40 pct of all people eligible for inoculation against the virus receive both vaccine shots by the end of August.