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Japan to expand restrictions as infections surge

TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s government is preparing social restrictions in Tokyo and other regions as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus infects more people.

Japan has never had a lockdown during the pandemic but has focussed instead on asking restaurants and bars to close early.

Crowds are back in many parts of Japan, with people packing stores and events, while COVID-19 cases jump.

The order will be finalised this week and is likely to take effect on Friday, the government spokesman said yesterday. The measures are expected to last for about three weeks in 16 regions, including Okinawa, Yamaguchi and Hiroshima, which were already placed under some restrictions earlier this month.

Other areas seeing surging infections, such as Osaka, may be added later.

“The infections are rising at an unprecedented speed,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters. Worries are growing about infections spreading so quickly that hospital systems may get stretched thin, he said.

He acknowledged additional action may be needed if the numbers of people shoot up, required to undergo quarantine or hospitalisation.

About 80 per cent of the Japanese population have received two vaccine shots, but only one per cent the booster.

The government has promised to speed up boosters, but most people won’t be getting them until after March or later, under the current schedule.

People walk along a pedestrian crossing in Tokyo. PHOTO: AP
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