3 prefectures to take stronger virus measures

Japan's central government has decided to allow Osaka and two other prefectures to take stronger measures without an emergency declaration.

Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide said, "This designation is designed to take intensive measures in limited areas for a limited period of time, in order to stop the spread of infection and prevent the situation from becoming so bad that we have to declare a state of emergency."

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.
Governors are expected to focus on the city of Osaka, four cities in neighboring Hyogo Prefecture, and the northern city of Sendai.

They will likely ask bars and restaurants in those areas to close by 8 PM, stop using karaoke machines, and refuse customers who don't take precautions.

Officials plan to limit the number of spectators at events to 5,000.

They will also urge companies to reduce the number of commuters by allowing more staff to work from home.

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.

Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura Yasutoshi said, "We'll do all we can to prevent a rapid spread of infection across the country."

But one board member at the Japan Medical Association says the designation should have come earlier.

Kamayachi Satoshi said, "I think more prefectures will need to be given this designation."

Over 2,600 infections were reported across Japan on Thursday, including 475 in Tokyo.