Japan's prime minister has officially expanded the coronavirus state of emergency to cover 8 more prefectures where infections are spreading rapidly. As Tokyo hosts the Paralympics, nearly half of Japan's prefectures will be under the measure.
Suga Yoshihide said on Wednesday, "The number of new infections across the country remains at a record high. The figure is especially high in the Aichi area. The highly contagious Delta variant is posing serious threats. I call on the public to cooperate more to overcome the crisis."
13 prefectures -- Okinawa, Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Osaka, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka -- are currently under the state of emergency.
From Friday until September 12, the measure is to cover eight more: Hokkaido, Miyagi, Gifu, Aichi, Mie, Shiga, Okayama and Hiroshima.
So-called quasi-emergency measures will be in effect in 12 other prefectures: Ishikawa, Fukushima, Kumamoto, Toyama, Yamanashi, Kagawa, Ehime, Kagoshima, Kochi, Saga, Nagasaki and Miyazaki.
Officials plan to urge restaurants and bars to stop serving alcohol and impose stricter procedures such as limiting the number of people allowed at shopping malls and events. But Japan's measures do not resemble the strict lockdowns imposed in other countries.
Earlier on Wednesday, officials confirmed that the Delta variant continues to sweep across the nation.
Hospitals are under enormous strain, with more seriously ill patients than ever. Officials say many people don't know where they got infected.
Officials plan to introduce anti-infection measures at schools, but not to force them to close. They also plan to give teachers and other staff priority access to vaccines and provide schools with virus test kits.