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Japan widens virus emergency for 7 more areas as cases surge

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Japan widens virus emergency for 7 more areas as cases surge

TOKYO (AP) — Japan expanded a coronavirus state of emergency for seven more prefectures Wednesday, affecting more than half the population amid a surge in infections across the country.

Prime Minister Yoshide Suga’s announcement comes less than a week after he declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three nearby prefectures. The new declaration, which adds seven other prefectures in western and central Japan, takes effect Thursday and lasts until Feb. 7.

The government is asking bars and restaurants in Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Fukuoka, Aichi, Gifu and Tochigi prefectures to close by 8 p.m., employers to have 70% of their staff work from home and residents in the affected areas avoid going out for nonessential purposes.

Suga has been criticized as being to slow to act as the country’s number of reported coronavirus infections and deaths roughly doubled over the past month to about 300,000 and 4,100. Both states of emergency were declared only after local leaders had pleaded with him to do so.

Experts have warned that even the state of emergency measures, which are non-binding and largely rely on voluntary cooperation, may be insufficient to significantly slow the infections.

Unlike the earlier seven-week emergency Japan had in April and May last year, schools, gyms, theaters and shops will stay open.

Suga has faced criticism for not taking strong enough government action earlier in the outbreak. He mostly limited his interventions to asking the public to take basic safety measures such as wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding drinking and dining in groups until mid-December, when he finally announced the suspension of a government-subsidized tourism campaign.Suga eventually took action after calls from the […]

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