Japan's Okinawa sees doubling of Covid-19 cases, considers emergency steps

Passersby wearing protective face masks, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, walk at a shopping arcade in the prefectural capital Naha, on the southern island of Okinawa, Okinawa prefecture, Japan, on Oct 24, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters

TOKYO - Japan's Okinawa region appeared to be the epicentre of a new coronavirus surge with cases more than doubling on Wednesday (Jan 5) from the previous day, as officials considered imposing emergency steps to contain it.

New infections in the southern prefecture jumped to about 600, an Okinawa official said, from 225 on Tuesday, its highest tally since when Japan was in the midst of its fifth and biggest wave of Covid-19 cases.

No detail was immediately available on which virus variant was causing the new infections although Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki on Tuesday told reporters the region had entered a sixth wave of infections and the highly transmissible Omicron variant was responsible for the surge.

As of Monday, a total of 993 cases of the Omicron variant had been found in Japan, including 295 cases considered community transmissions, according to the health ministry.

Okinawa health experts will meet later on Wednesday to determine whether to ask the central government to impose urgent measures, the official said.

It would be the first such declaration of what are known in Japan as quasi-emergency measures since Sept 30, when all states of emergency and quasi-emergency that had been in effect for a good part of 2021 were lifted.

The central government hopes to respond quickly to any requests for emergency steps, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.


The Mainichi newspaper said Tamaki told Matsuno on Tuesday that he was considering requesting a quasi-emergency state, which would include measures such as limiting the opening hours of restaurants and bars.

Japan is also asking the US military to make all efforts on the coronavirus, Matsuno said, amid rising infections at bases in Okinawa.

Tamaki said infections in US military bases in the prefecture continued to increase.

The number of new daily coronavirus cases in Japan rose past 1,000 on Tuesday for the first time in three months. A new national tally is due later on Wednesday.

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