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Japan widens virus emergency to 7 more areas as cases surge

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Japan widens virus emergency to 7 more areas as cases surge

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

Prime Minister Yoshide Suga also said Japan will suspend fast-track entry exceptions for business visitors or others with residency permits, fully banning foreign visitors while the state of emergency is in place.

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 severe situation is continuing, but these measures are indispensable in turning the tide for the better,” Suga said at a news conference, bowing as he sought understanding from the public.

He said he put the seven prefectures in urban areas under the state of emergency to prevent infections from spilling over into smaller cities where medical systems are more vulnerable.

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 reported coronavirus infections and deaths roughly doubled over the past month to about 300,000 and 4,100 respectively. Both states of emergency were declared only after local leaders pleaded with him to do so.Experts have warned that even the emergency declarations, which are nonbinding and largely rely on voluntary cooperation, may be insufficient to significantly slow […]

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