Coronavirus cases surge in Okinawa, Hokkaido

The Japanese government decided to extend the coronavirus state of emergency for Tokyo and eight other prefectures until June 20. That's the same day emergency measures for Okinawa Prefecture are due to expire. People are especially concerned in Okinawa and Hokkaido where infections have been on the rise.

Okinawa governor Tamaki Denny said, "The number of infected people in their 40s and younger is increasing dramatically. And due to the rapid spread of mutant strains, cases are also on the rise among teenagers."

Saturday's tally in Okinawa Prefecture is 335, marking a record high for the second straight day. Tamaki said the prefecture's health care system is stretched to the limit. He proposed enhanced PCR testing for visitors and the implementation of a system to easily present COVID-negative certificates upon arrival.

In the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, 442 new cases have been reported.

The shortage of beds is particularly serious in the capital, Sapporo where four people who tested positive for the virus were found dead in their homes. They were waiting to be hospitalized.

Uemura Shuji of the Sapporo Medical University said, "Sometimes it takes more than a week for infected people to get checked by doctors or nurses. Some of them become sicker and die during that time."

Government officials aim to inoculate Japan's 36 million seniors by the end of July. But so far, only 10 percent of people aged 65 or older have received at least one dose.

The government is also looking at ways for people other than the elderly to get their shots as soon as possible.

One plan the health ministry is considering, possibly as early as mid-June, is to have people vaccinated at their workplaces.

It's also planning to extend the scope beyond employees to include their family members.

Nationwide, 3,596 daily cases and 91 deaths have been reported so far on Saturday. The health ministry says more than 1,300 people are in a critical condition.