The central government is set to declare a COVID-19 state of emergency in seven more prefectures in addition to Tokyo and five other areas, government sources said Monday, as cases continue to rise.
A decision to declare an emergency in Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka prefectures from Friday to Sept. 12 is expected to be made on Tuesday, they said.
The state of emergency through Aug. 31 for Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Osaka and Okinawa will also be extended to Sept. 12, the sources said.
Additionally, the government will put 10 other prefectures under COVID-19 quasi-emergency measures, where governors are allowed to impose restrictions similar to those introduced under a full state of emergency.
The quasi-emergency measures in the 10 prefectures — Miyagi, Toyama, Yamanashi, Gifu, Mie, Okayama, Hiroshima, Kagawa, Ehime and Kagoshima — will also run from Friday to Sept. 12. The quasi-emergency designation is currently in place for 13 prefectures.
These steps will be decided officially on Tuesday after being proposed to a panel of experts on the government’s basic policy to combating the COVID-19 crisis.
With the changes, the state of emergency will be in place for 13 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, while the quasi-emergency status will cover 16 others.
Japan has seen a surge in cases of the deadly virus, with the delta variant pushing the number of serious cases and patients in hospitals to record highs.
On Monday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga discussed the expansion with relevant Cabinet ministers, including economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who also leads the government’s coronavirus response.
After the discussions, Suga told reporters that the government “decided to propose (the expansion) to the expert panel,” adding that it is his duty to make every effort to resolve the issues at hand.
The government has been cautious about expanding the state of emergency nationwide, as demanded by the Japan Medical Association and others.
Though the Japanese government has instituted repeated states of emergency, their effectiveness has been limited due to laws mandating that the government can only request cooperation.
Pandemic fatigue and summer vacations have also been blamed for contributing to the latest COVID-19 surge in a nation where only around 36% of people have been fully vaccinated.
Suga on Monday visited a Tokyo hotel that is using an “antibody cocktail” treatment on COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms as the country struggles with a rapid rise in serious cases that is putting a heavy strain on hospitals.
The patients at the hotel in Minato Ward are undergoing the treatment, which according to overseas clinical trials lowers the risk of hospitalization or death by about 70%.
Health minister Norihisa Tamura and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike accompanied Suga.
The antibody cocktail treatment uses casirivimab and imdevimab developed by U.S. firm Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Swiss health care company F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. and is administered intravenously. It was famously used to treat former U.S. President Donald Trump for COVID-19.
Suga has announced his plan to create a hub to conduct the treatment soon, hoping to reduce the number of patients with serious symptoms.
The nationwide number of serious COVID-19 patients hit a record high 1,603 on Sunday, up 40 from the previous day and renewing a record for the fourth straight day, according to the health ministry. They include people in intensive care units and those on respirators or life support.
On Monday, vaccination for members of Parliament, their secretaries and officials of both chambers began at the Diet building.
Of the more than 700 Diet members targeted, only about 100 have made reservations, apparently as many have already been vaccinated at their places of residence.
The Diet was initially planning to start the on-site vaccination in July, but it was pushed back due to a delay in applications for the program.
While some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have called for prioritizing lawmakers’ vaccinations from the standpoint of crisis management, it was never realized in the face of concerns that the public would deem it as exercising their privilege.