Hokkaido to request focused anti-virus measures

Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido is set to ask the central government to re-impose focused restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The prefectural capital of Sapporo reported 24.5 new cases per 100,000 people over the past week. That's close to the most serious Stage Four on the central government's risk scale, which is 25 per 100,000.

The prefectural task force charged with handling the virus decided on Tuesday to make the request as quickly as possible.

The prefecture also decided to reinforce anti-coronavirus measures ahead of the response from Tokyo.

It will ask people throughout the prefecture to refrain from nonessential travel to and from Sapporo from Thursday through August 22.

People in Sapporo will also be asked to refrain from nonessential outings. Public facilities will be asked to close if at all possible.

Pubs and restaurants currently serve alcoholic drinks until 8 p.m. and close at 9 p.m.

Starting Thursday, these establishments will be allowed to serve alcohol only if they meet certain requirements, such as capping at four the number of customers per group.

Establishments that don't meet these requirements will be banned from serving alcohol. This measure will also be in place through August 22.

The prefecture plans to have pubs and restaurants close their doors at 8 p.m. and stop serving alcohol at 7 p.m. as soon as focused restrictions are imposed.