Japan is set to expand the current state of emergency to three more prefectures, the government said on Friday,
This is as the coronavirus infections continued to hit wider regions of the country ahead of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
The prefectures of Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima were likely to be under the measure from Sunday to the end of May, Economic Revitalisation Minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura, told reporters.
A panel of experts endorsed the proposal, said Nishimura, who was in charge of the government’s coronavirus response.
The northern island of Hokkaido reported a record 712 new infections on Thursday while the western prefecture of Hiroshima also saw a record 219 new cases on Wednesday.
Surging infections prompted Hiroshima and Okayama to cancel next week’s torch relay on their public roads.
International Olympic Committee President, Thomas Bach, was scheduled to participate in a torch relay event in Hiroshima on May 17.
However, Bach’s travel to Japan ahead of the Games has been postponed, local organisers said.
The postponement is coming as the government extended the state of emergency in Tokyo and three other prefectures until the end of May and added two more regions Aichi, Fukuoka to the measure.
The government declared the state of emergency in the four prefectures in late April, requesting bars and restaurants refrain from serving alcohol and offering a karaoke service.
Experts warned of the rapid spread of more contagious variants, especially as the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines has been extremely slow in Japan since its launch in mid-February.
Only one per cent of Japan’s 125 million populations have been fully vaccinated. (dpa/NAN)