Japan to double areas under COVID checks as cases hit record

People wearing protective face masks walk on the street, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Tokyo, Japan January 19, 2022. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO, Jan 25 (Reuters) – Japan will double the number of regions under enhanced coronavirus controls as it seeks to adapt its strategy to deal with the record number of cases caused by the omicron variant to ensure prompt treatment. for those who need it.

The countrywide case count surpassed 60,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic, Fuji TV showed on Tuesday. The capital Tokyo recorded 12,813 new cases, while the Osaka region reported 8,612, both records.

A group of health experts approved the expansion of stricter measures in 18 other regions, including the western prefectures of Kyoto and Osaka, in response to the increase in infections and hospital admissions caused by omicron.

The restrictions will apply from Thursday until February 20, empowering regional governors to ask restaurants and bars to reduce their opening hours and stop serving alcohol.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to outline the plan in an announcement on Tuesday.

The measures, which are already in force in 16 prefectures, will cover more than 70% of the country until the middle of next month. The group also approved an extension until February 20 of the so-called quasi-emergency measures in three regions where they are already in force.

The stricter measures come at a time when the government is changing its approach to handling the growing number of cases.

The Ministry of Health announced late on Monday that it will allow doctors to diagnose as infected those who have had close contact with a COVID-19 patient and who show symptoms without the need for a test, if the governments consider it so. local.

(Reporting by Rocky Swift, Satoshi Sugiyama and Ritsuko Shimizu; Spanish editing by Carlos Serrano)


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