Osaka, Kyoto among 16 prefs. to remain under COVID quasi-emergency

© Kyodo News

Japan plans to extend COVID-19 quasi-emergency measures in 16 prefectures including Osaka, Kyoto and Fukuoka beyond Sunday to early March to curb coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday.

With the measures set to expire Sunday in a total of 21 prefectures, five others -- Yamagata, Shimane, Yamaguchi, Oita and Okinawa -- will not seek an extension, judging that the strain on hospitals has eased with daily infections showing signs of stabilizing.

The plan means that 31 of Japan's 47 prefectures including Tokyo would remain until March 6 under a quasi-state of emergency that allows their governors to request that restaurants and bars close early and stop serving alcohol.

Wakayama in western Japan has also sought an extension beyond Feb. 27.

The quasi-emergency measures have been in place since January in many of the areas to prevent a surge in COVID-19 patients from overwhelming hospitals. Some health experts say the recent wave of infections, largely driven by the Omicron variant, has likely peaked.

The highly transmissible strain tends to cause no or mild symptoms among those infected. But elderly people and those with underlying health conditions are more likely to develop severe symptoms, requiring medical treatment.