Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has decided to place Okinawa, Yamaguchi, and Hiroshima under a quasi-state of emergency from Sunday until Jan. 31, amid a surge in the country’s coronavirus cases spurred by the Omicron infections in U.S. military bases.
Under the quasi-state of emergency, governors are allowed to impose stringent measures in the specified prefectures, such as shortening business hours and restricting the serving of alcohol in the prefectures.
Certified dining establishments are not subject to such restrictions during the quasi-emergency, but they will be asked to halt dine-in alcohol service amid the government’s effort to curb the spread of the virus.
“Infection numbers have been rising nationwide through the year-end, New Year period and community transmissions of Omicron have been reported in parts of the nation,” Kishida said at the task force meeting, Kyodo News reported.
Japan reported a total of 6,214 new cases on Friday, with Okinawa reporting 1,414 cases, Yamaguchi reporting 180 cases, and Hiroshima reporting 429 cases. The Japanese capital of Tokyo reported 922 new cases of coronavirus, though it has yet to be placed under quasi-emergency.
Governor Denny Tamaki said on Tuesday that Okinawa prefecture, host to the vast majority of U.S. military bases in Japan, has entered the sixth wave of coronavirus. Tamaki attributed the increase in coronavirus cases to the Omicron variant detected in multiple U.S. military bases in Japan.
Japan has detected a total of 1,191 Omicron cases as of Tuesday, including 479 cases considered community transmissions.
Omicron began to spread in Japan after a cluster of infections was discovered at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Hansen in Okinawa last month, where one Japanese worker tested positive for the Omicron variant. Japan then urged the U.S. forces to conduct genome analysis of the Omicron variant.
Tamaki told reporters on Jan. 2 he was outraged over the increase of infections, accusing the U.S. forces of “insufficient” management, reported the Asahi Shimbun. He called for stricter measures in the military bases.
The U.S. Forces Japan (USFJ) subsequently announced new measures on Jan. 5, which require all personnel to wear masks off base and undergo a coronavirus test upon arrival to Japan.
“USFJ now requires no less than three negative COVID-19 tests upon traveling to Japan, including testing prior to departure for Japan, immediately upon arrival, and again while in [restriction of movement] status on installation,” it said in a statement.
The latest quasi-state of emergency declarations in three prefectures mark the first such declaration under the ruling of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who took office in October last year.
Reuters contributed to this report.