With record infections, Japan expands restrictions against Covid-19

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Japan on Wednesday expanded restrictions against Covid-19 in the capital Tokyo and in a dozen regions, covering half of the country’s population. The measure is taken as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus causes a record of new infections.

Already in effect in three regions, the measures, which are expected to last from next Friday (21) until February 13, were made official by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, after a meeting with experts earlier in the day.

“We are battling an unknown virus, and I hope we can overcome this situation with sufficient action and without excessive fear,” said Kishida.

The “near-emergency” measures, as they are called, allow governors to limit the mobility and activities of companies, shortening operating hours for bars and restaurants, and barring alcohol sales.

“Although the measures are not as effective as when the numbers are smaller, I believe they can still mitigate things,” said Gautam Deshpande, a doctor at St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo.

Japan recorded more than 32,000 new infections by Covid-19 on Tuesday (18), according to the NHK network, surpassing the maximum of August, when Tokyo hosted the Olympic Games.

The Japanese capital set a daily record on Wednesday with 7,377 new infections, as did the Osaka region with 6,101.

The country has recorded a total of 1,924,937 cases and 18,436 deaths in the pandemic.

Although Omicron is more infectious than previous variants, it appears to cause less serious illness, but public health experts are still concerned about a possible burden on health systems in the face of an exponential increase in cases.

Japan has declared states of emergency four times during the pandemic, and has vaccinated about 80% of its 126 million people. Booster doses, however, reached only 1.2% of the population.

The authorities “dragged their feet with the booster shots,” Deshpande added.

Japan enforced near-emergency restrictions this month in three regions that have US military installations, after outbreaks of the disease at bases appear to have spilled over into surrounding communities.

The hospital bed occupancy rate for Covid-19 patients in Tokyo rose to 25.9% on Wednesday, according to city officials.

An increase to 50% could lead to a full state of emergency, officials said.

Reference: CNN Brasil

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