Japan to allow prefectures to issue declarations to combat surging COVID-19 cases
The Japanese government said on Friday that it will allow local governments from the country's 47 prefectures to issue declarations to tackle the spread of the highly transmissible BA.5 Omicron subvariant.
The move comes following nationwide new daily COVID-19 cases hitting a record high for a second straight day on Thursday at more than 230,000, with new infections in the capital surpassing the 40,000-mark for the first time.
Daishiro Yamagiwa, minister in charge of economic revitalization and the coronavirus response, announced the policy at a press conference.
He said the central government will assist prefectural authorities to "strike a balance between infection control and economic and social activities."
The policy is targeting older people, who display far more severe symptoms once they contract the virus and comprise the majority of those receiving treatment in rapidly overstretched medical facilities.
Seniors, under the policy, will be urged not to go outside if possible. Along with seniors, the government is also looking to widen the eligibility of the fourth vaccine to include more sections of society.
Quasi-emergencies that were lifted earlier this year will not be imposed at this juncture, however, as the government is trying to balance tackling the virus' spread while not stifling businesses and social activities.
Under the declarations, local governments will urge residents to take antiviral measures, such as early vaccinations and working from home, local media reported.
Along with older people, those with underlying conditions will also be encouraged to avoid going outside unnecessarily.
According to the Cabinet Secretariat, as of Wednesday, the occupancy rates for designated hospital beds were above the 50-percent threshold which indicates the medical system is under strain.
This is the case in 10 out of Japan's 47 prefectures.
The central government said it will deploy officials to prefectures that issue declarations to serve as liaison officers to oversee precautionary measures.