Japan PM set to expand virus emergency

Tokyo, Jan 12 (IANS) Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is set to expand a state of emergency against the Covid-19 pandemic for the Greater Tokyo area to include Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures, informed sources said on Tuesday.

According to the sources, Suga told executives of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that he intends to broaden the initial state of emergency that came into effect on January 8 for Tokyo and its three neighboring prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama, to cover the western areas, reports Xinhua news agency.

Meanwhile, the central prefectures of Aichi and Gifu were also seeking to be added to areas covered by the emergency virus measure.

“I want to make a swift decision on whether to include the three western prefectures,” Suga was quoted as saying to the LDP executives.

The expanded virus emergency could be declared on Wednesday, the sources said.

Ahead of the expected expansion, Hyogo prefecture requested restaurants and bars in parts of the prefecture to close by 9 p.m.

Osaka and Kyoto prefectures meanwhile, have extended the duration of requests for shortened opening hours of restaurants and bars.

Under the state of emergency, people in the affected areas will be asked to refrain from making unnecessary trips outdoors, and restaurants and bars requested to shorten their operating hours.

Other establishments like non-essential shops and departments stores may also be asked to shorten their working hours, in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

Japan’s first state of emergency was declared in April 2020 in Tokyo and six other prefectures before being expanded nationwide and then lifted incrementally in May.

The legislation giving the government the authority to declare a state of emergency was enacted in March 2020.

Japan has so far reported more than 294,000 Covid-19 cases and 3,898 deaths.

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