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Japan Expands Virus Restrictions to Tokyo, Kyoto Amid Surge

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 4/9/2021 Isabel Reynolds

(Bloomberg) --

Japan will reimpose restrictions in Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa aimed at reining in a rapid spread of the coronavirus in those areas, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, three weeks after ending a state of emergency in the capital.

The measures will run from April 12 until May 11 in Tokyo and May 5 in Kyoto and Okinawa. Three other areas -- Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi -- are already under similar restrictions.

a person standing in front of a store: Japan Lifts Virus Emergency Ahead of Olympics Torch Relay © Bloomberg Japan Lifts Virus Emergency Ahead of Olympics Torch Relay

Restaurant terraces in the Shinjuku District of Tokyo earlier in March.

Photographer: Soichiro Koriyama/Bloomberg

”We will take these focused measures in limited areas to prevent surges in various regions from becoming a major national wave,” Suga told his virus task force Friday. He also urged people to avoid unnecessary travel between prefectures.

The new measures will be similar to those applied under the emergency, with bars and restaurants being instructed to close by 8 p.m., and those that fail to comply facing fines. Incentives will be provided for eateries to follow virus guidelines, such as maintaining sufficient space between tables.

Suga vowed last month to prevent the need for a new state of emergency, but has little left in his toolbox to control the latest surge. Vaccinations are proceeding at a slow pace, and are not set to kick into high gear until May.

For more on Japan’s Covid-19 fight:
Japan Vaccine Czar Says Inoculations Won’t Pick Up Until MayTokyo Seeks Tighter Virus Restrictions as Infections ReboundNorth Korea Says It’ll Skip Tokyo Olympics Due to Covid-19

The move comes as the Olympic Torch Relay proceeds across the country, heralding the virus-delayed Tokyo Games. They are scheduled to start on July 23 and be one of the biggest global events of the pandemic era. Suga has said he is determined to go ahead with the sports spectacle, though polls indicate a majority of the public think the games should be postponed another year, or even canceled.

Tokyo on Friday recorded more than 500 infections for the third straight day, compared with a daily peak of more than 2,500 in January. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said she was concerned the capital could go the way of Osaka, which is experiencing record numbers of infections.

“Considering how rampant the mutant viruses are, it’s important to discourage travel between major cities,” Koike told reporters.

Japan has so far suffered a far lower death toll than the U.S. or most European countries, at fewer than 10,000 people, compared with about 127,000 in the U.K., which has roughly half the population.

(Updates throughout with formal decision.)

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