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Japan Brings Back Virus Restrictions Over Omicron Surge

COVID-19 cases are rising.
by Agence France Presse
Jan 20, 2022
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
Photo/s: REUTERS/Issei Kato

Japan's government approved new coronavirus restrictions on a large part of the country, including Tokyo, on Wednesday as it battles record infections fueled by the Omicron variant.

The restrictions in 13 regions, which mainly target nightlife and are far less strict than a blanket lockdown, will be in place from Friday until mid-February.

The move allows each region to decide what specific measures to implement, with most places urging bars and restaurants to shorten opening hours or halt alcohol sales.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the government aimed to be "fully prepared" in the fight against the latest wave of COVID-19.

"We will not have excessive fear, and will work in close coordination with regional governments," he said as he announced the measures at a virus taskforce meeting.

"With scientific assessments from experts, the cooperation of medical workers, and above all else, the cooperation of the Japanese public, we will overcome this situation."

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READ: Thailand Mulls Resuming Quarantine Waiver for Foreign Visitors

The highly infectious Omicron variant is driving a resurgence in coronavirus cases in Japan, with daily nationwide infections topping 30,000 for the first time this week.

Tokyo also reported its highest ever number of new cases -- more than 7,000 -- on Wednesday.

Japan has still been less hard-hit than many countries, with around 18,400 deaths in the pandemic while avoiding strict lockdowns.

But government officials and experts are worried that rising infections could put pressure on the country's medical system.

Three Japanese regions are already under virus restrictions, after surges in cases linked to U.S. military bases.

More than 78% of Japan's population is fully vaccinated, but the program began later than in some other developed countries.

So far, just 1.2% of the population has received a booster shot.

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