Japan set to extend COVID curbs as hospitals battle infections


TOKYO — Japan prepared on Wednesday to extend infection controls in some regions amid high numbers of hospital patients hit by the Omicron variant of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The central government has received requests from five prefectures, including Osaka and Kyoto in western Japan, to extend measures set to expire on Sunday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.

Media said 10 prefectures, including Tokyo, the capital, were expected to seek an extension of two to three weeks for the curbs, which encompass shorter business hours and limits on the sale of alcohol.

A panel of health experts will meet later on Wednesday to advise on the state of the coronavirus battle.

Although new cases have trended down from last month’s record, hospitals still struggle to treat a flood of patients with serious symptoms.

February was the deadliest month with 4,856 fatalities, a tally by national broadcaster NHK showed. Most were elderly patients left vulnerable by a lagging vaccine booster effort that has covered just a fifth of the population. — Reuters

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