Kirksville MFA, 316 W. Potter, Kirksville, MO  63501 660-665-4695      
Lancaster MFA, 13975 US HWY 63,  Lancaster, MO 63548  660-457-3728 

Printable Page Headline News   Return to Menu - Page 1 2 3 5 6 7 8 13
Japan Widens Virus Restrictions        01/21 06:10


   TOKYO (AP) -- Restaurants and bars will close early in Tokyo and a dozen 
other areas across Japan beginning Friday as the country widens COVID-19 
restrictions due to the omicron variant, which has caused cases to surge to new 
highs in metropolitan areas.

   The restraint, which is something of a pre-state of emergency, is the first 
since September and is scheduled to last through Feb. 13. With three other 
prefectures -- Okinawa, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi -- under similar measures since 
early January, the state of restraint now covers 16 areas, or one-third of the 

   While many Japanese adults are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, few have 
gotten a booster shot, which has been a vital protection from the highly 
contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus.

   The Health Ministry on Friday approved Pfizer vaccinations for children aged 
5-11, who are increasingly vulnerable to infection.

   Throughout the pandemic, Japan has resisted the use of lockdowns to limit 
the spread of the virus and has focused on requiring eateries to close early 
and not serve alcohol, and on urging the public to wear masks and practice 
social distancing, as the government seeks to minimize damage to the economy.

   Under the latest measures, most eateries are asked to close by 8 or 9 p.m., 
while large events can allow full capacity if they have anti-virus plans. In 
Tokyo, certified eateries that stop serving alcohol can stay open until 9 p.m. 
while those serving alcohol must close an hour earlier.

   Restaurants that close at 9 p.m. and don't serve alcohol receive 30,000 yen 
($263) per day in government compensation, while those that close at 8 p.m. get 
25,000 yen ($220) per day.

   Critics say the measures, which almost exclusively target bars and 
restaurants, make little sense and are unfair.

   Mitsuru Saga, the manager of a Japanese-style "izakaya" restaurant in 
downtown Tokyo, said he chose to serve alcohol and close at 8 p.m. despite 
receiving less compensation from the government.

   "We cannot make business without serving alcohol," Saga said in an interview 
with Nippon Television. "It seems only eateries are targeted for restraints."

   Some experts question the effectiveness of placing restraints only on 
eateries, noting that infections show no signs of slowing in the three 
prefectures that have already been subjected to the measures for nearly two 

   After more than two years of repeated restraints and social distancing 
requests, Japanese are increasingly becoming less cooperative to such measures. 
People are back to commuting on packed trains and shopping at crowded stores.

   Tokyo's main train station of Shinagawa was packed as usual with commuters 
rushing to work Friday morning.

   Japan briefly eased border controls in November but quickly reversed them to 
ban most foreign entrants when the omicron variant began spreading in other 
countries. Japan says it will stick to the stringent border policy through the 
end of February as the country tries to reinforce medical systems and treatment.

   The tough border controls have triggered criticism from foreign students and 
scholars who say the measures are not scientific.

   A group of scholars and Japan-U.S. experts recently launched a petition, led 
by Japan Society head Joshua Walker, calling on Prime Minister Fumio Kishida 
and his government to allow foreign scholars and students to enter the country 
again under careful preventive measures.

   A letter to Kishida, signed by hundreds of academics and experts in 
Japan-U.S. studies, urged his government to relax border controls to allow 
educators, students and scholars to enter Japan and pursue their academic 
activity. Many of them have been forced to give up Japan studies and focus 
instead on other countries, including South Korea.

   "They become the bridges between Japan and other societies. They are future 
policymakers, business leaders, and teachers. They are the foundation of the 
U.S.-Japan alliance and other international relationships that support Japan's 
core national interests," the letter said. "The closure is harming Japan's 
national interests and international relationships."

   Japan recently announced it will allow 87 students on Japanese government 
scholarships to enter the country, but petitioners say there are many others on 
foreign government-sponsored scholarships who still cannot get in.

   Tokyo logged 8,638 new cases of coronavirus infection Thursday, exceeding 
the previous record of 7,377 set the day before.

   At a Tokyo metropolitan government task force meeting, experts sounded the 
alarm at the fast-paced upsurge led by omicron.

   Norio Ohmagari, Director of the Disease Control and Prevention Center of 
National Center for Global Health and an advisor to the Tokyo metropolitan 
government panel, said Tokyo's daily new cases may exceed 18,000 within a week 
if the increase continues at the current pace.

   Though only some of the soaring number of infected people are hospitalized 
and occupying less than one-third of available hospital beds in the Japanese 
capital, experts say the rapid upsurge of the cases could quickly overwhelm the 
medical systems once the infections further spread among the elderly population 
who are more likely to become seriously ill.

   Surging infections have begun to paralyze hospitals, schools and other 
sectors in some areas.

   The ministry has trimmed the required self-isolation period from 14 days to 
10 for those who come into close contact with someone who tests positive for 
COVID-19, and to seven days for essential workers if they test negative.

   While about 80% of Japanese have received their first two vaccine doses, the 
rollout of booster shots has been slow and has reached only 1.4 % of the 
population so far.

Copyright DTN. All rights reserved. Disclaimer.
Powered By DTN