By Isabel Reynolds
May 7, 2021, 1:52 AM – Updated on May 7, 2021, 3:39 AM
Word Count: 500
The move, which comes less than three months before the capital hosts the Olympics, will add the industrial region of Aichi and the southern prefecture of Fukuoka to areas subject to restrictions. With Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto already under the state of emergency, the expanded measure would cover about 40% of the population and most major urban areas. Milder restrictions would be extended or applied in eight other regions.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has said he would make a formal decision by Friday, plans to hold a news conference at 7 p.m. A slow vaccine rollout, which has so far reached less than 2% of the population, has left the premier with few tools to control the pace of infections, with the Olympics set to open July 23.
Suga declared Japan’s third state of emergency that started April 25 and it was initially scheduled to end May 11. While economists have expressed fears it could drag on consumption, virus cases have remained at worryingly high numbers since it came into effect.
For more on Japan’s Covid-19 fight:
Glacial Pace of Vaccinations Threatens Japan’s Olympic Moment
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Japan Shuts Tokyo Bars, Bans Sports Fans in New Virus Emergency
Why the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Will Be Like No Other: QuickTake
Nishimura said the strain on the health care system in Osaka, which saw 747 new cases Thursday, had reached a crisis point. With many clusters occurring at workplaces, he urged businesses to comply with a government guideline of reducing the number of commuters by 70% and said companies should publish data on how far they’ve introduced remote working.
Alongside the extension, the government is considering revisions to the restrictions that are being applied under the emergency. Bars and restaurants are banned from selling alcohol, and spectators are excluded from major sporting events under the current emergency restrictions.
Among the regulations being considered are having large commercial facilities such as department stores that had been asked to close, being allowed to open until 8 p.m., Nishimura said.
Large events would be limited to 5,000 people, and will have to end by 9 p.m., he said. The ban on serving alcohol would be extended to cover eateries that allow customers to bring in their own alcoholic drinks, Nishimura added.
An emergency extension could mean that a visit by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach planned for later this month would be reviewed and possibly canceled, broadcaster TV Asahi said earlier this week, citing an Organizing Committee source.
While opinion polls have shown the majority of Japanese voters want the Olympics postponed or canceled, Suga has repeatedly said he wants to press ahead with the event, which is set to open July 23.