Japan to declare COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency on 3 regions where US military bases located

Under the quasi-state of emergency, prefectural officials are empowered to further enhance antiviral measures.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is preparing to place three prefectures here under a quasi-state of emergency on Friday amid a spike in COVID-19 cases stemming from US military personnel based in the prefectures spreading the virus.

Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, host to the vast majority of US bases in Japan, is expected to be fully put under a quasi-state of emergency, following a record 981 new daily COVID-19 cases being reported on Thursday.

The prefectures of Yamaguchi and Hiroshima, meanwhile, will likely see the mandate only applied to certain towns and cities there, with the tougher measures coming into effect from Sunday through January 31.

Under the quasi-state of emergency, prefectural officials are empowered to further enhance antiviral measures, including asking eateries to close earlier and bars and restaurants to refrain from serving alcoholic beverages.

Caps on the number of people attending large-scale public events can also be imposed by the local governments, under the quasi-state of emergency.

Following consultations with health experts by relevant government personnel, the parliament will convene Friday to hear why the more stringent antiviral measures are necessary.

The quasi-state of emergency will almost certainly be green-lit by the parliament as the three prefectures were hard hit and the nation in general are grappling to further limit the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 stemming from US bases here into mainstream society, which is experiencing surging numbers of community transmissions.

The Japanese prime minister, if the quasi-state of emergency is approved by the parliament, will formally declare it so for the three prefectures later Friday, sources said.

According to the latest official figures, Tokyo reported 641 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, marking the highest daily caseload since September 18, as the Omicron variant continues to spread rampantly.

Nationwide, the number of new infections on Thursday topped the 3,000-mark for the first time since around the end of September.

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