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Japan set to place Okinawa under COVID-19 state of emergency

21 May 2021 08:16

TOKYO. KAZINFORM - The Japanese government is set to decide Friday to add Okinawa to areas under a COVID-19 state of emergency as infections in the southern island prefecture surge, Kyodo reports.

Tougher restrictions including a ban on restaurants serving alcohol are expected to be in place from Sunday to June 20.

Okinawa's addition will bring the number of prefectures under the state of emergency to 10. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is set to formalize the decision at a task force meeting in the evening.

The move comes after Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki on Wednesday asked for his prefecture, a popular tourist destination for its warm climate and beaches, to be added as the rising number of infections strains the medical system.

Meanwhile, the central government is set to reject Gifu Gov. Hajime Furuta's request to include the central prefecture, having deemed the situation there stable.

Suga has already declared a state of emergency in nine prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka through May 31, with eateries told to close by 8 p.m. and to refrain from serving alcohol or offering karaoke services.

Department stores and other major commercial facilities are also being told to temporarily shut or close early, and attendance at concerts and sports events has been capped at 5,000, or 50 percent of venue capacity.

The government had initially been reluctant to place the tougher restrictions on Okinawa, which is currently under a quasi-state of emergency, because the prefecture had opted not to ask restaurants to stop serving alcohol.

But it reversed its position after Okinawa reported more than 200 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, a daily record for the prefecture, with more than 90 percent of its hospital beds for COVID-19 patients already filled and Tamaki saying the medical system is in a «crisis situation.»