Japan’s central government on Thursday granted the requests of Osaka and two other prefectures to take stronger measures to tackle a resurgence of Covid-19 infections under a revised law that does not require declaring a state of emergency.
“This designation is designed to take intensive measures in limited areas for a limited period of time, in order to stop the spread of infection and prevent the situation from becoming so bad that we have to declare a state of emergency,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said.
The revised law enables the central government to declare a situation that falls short of a state of emergency in which special measures can be taken to counter the spread of the virus, the Xinhua news agency reported.
The designation can be applied when infections are surging in a situation equivalent to Stage 3, the second-highest on the government’s four-tier alert system.
The stronger measures that can be taken by the three prefectures could include imposing fines on bars and restaurants that ignore requests to shorten their operating hours.
Businesses will also be urged to promote remote working for their employees, and large spectator events will also have the numbers of attendees capped at 5,000.
The stricter measures come as the western prefecture of Osaka reported its highest number of Covid-19 infections in more than two months at 616 on Thursday, compared to Tokyo, the epicenter of the pandemic here, reporting 475 cases.
Hyogo Prefecture’s new cases were at a two-month high at 211, while Miyagi reported 200 new infections on Thursday.
Nationwide, more than 2,600 infections were reported by health officials and local authorities.
Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura has said Osaka is already experiencing a “fourth wave” of infections.
While calling for bars and restaurants to shorten their opening hours to 8 p.m. from the previous 9 p.m., he has wanted plastic partitions to be set up in restaurants and customers to wear face masks when they converse.
The 45-year-old governor has also said the Olympic torch relay leg in the city of Osaka, scheduled to take place April 14, should be cancelled.