Three prefectures to take stricter virus measures

The Japanese government has decided to allow Osaka and two other prefectures to take stronger coronavirus measures without an emergency declaration.

The move is a first for Japan since the Diet revised an anti-virus law in February to allow for tougher enforcement.

The designation will take effect on Monday and remain in place for a month.

Government officials say it will pave the way for changes in the city of Osaka, four cities in neighboring Hyogo Prefecture, and the northern city of Sendai.

They plan to ask bars and restaurants in those areas to close by 8 p.m., and to call on people to stay away from karaoke bars, which have been linked to cluster infections.

Osaka is now reporting more daily infections than anywhere else in the country.

The minister in charge of the coronavirus response says more contagious variants are spreading there and in Hyogo.

Nishimura Yasutoshi says he wants to work with the two governors to reduce the number of people traveling to and from the Kansai region.

Nishimura said, "I would like to work with each governor closely to take intensive and effective measures. We will do everything we can to contain infections in the region and prevent the virus from spreading quickly across the country."

Meanwhile the governor of Osaka prefecture says the public's cooperation is essential to stop another surge in cases.

Yoshimura Hirofumi said, "As for refraining from non-essential outings, I personally think this should be done intensively in areas where the designation is in place."

More than 2,500 infections were reported across Japan on Thursday, including 475 in Tokyo.