Govt. to step up monitoring of variants

NHK has learned that the Japanese government plans to step up coronavirus examinations to better detect mutant strains.

NHK obtained a draft revision of the government's basic policy against infections after the coronavirus state of emergency, which is currently in place for Tokyo and its three neighboring prefectures, is lifted.

The draft says the government will take measures to prevent a resurgence of the virus while maintaining social and economic activity.

To improve the monitoring of variants, the government plans to raise the rate of examination of samples from newly infected people to about 40 percent of them as soon as possible. The current target rate is 5 to 10 percent.

The government will also step up genome analysis of the virus detected in the samples, seeking further cooperation with universities and private-sector testing institutions.

To detect signs of infection at an early stage, the government intends to ask Tokyo and nine prefectures -- including six, among them Osaka and Fukuoka, where a state of emergency has already been lifted -- to carry out virus tests at facilities for the elderly around this month.

The government will also ask the local authorities to conduct regular intensive tests in entertainment districts from next month to June.

The government plans to urge local authorities to inspect restaurants and bars to check whether they are following the guidelines to prevent infection.

In the event of a resurgence of infections, the government will also call on local governments to ask restaurants and bars to shorten business hours and consider intensive measures that are allowed even when a state of emergency is not in place.