Quasi-emergency COVID-19 measures begin in Osaka, Hyogo, Miyagi

Apr 05 , 2021. 2 hours ago – 08:11 KYODO NEWS

People wearing face masks walk in the city of Osaka on April 4, 2021. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

OSAKA – Quasi-emergency measures against COVID-19 officially commenced Monday in Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures as part of efforts to stem a sharp resurgence in infections in the three areas.

The steps, effective for one month until May 5, include fines for eateries that ignore orders to shorten operating hours and requirements for customers to wear masks when patronizing establishments.

The three prefectures are the first to be designated as being on the brink of a state of emergency under a revised law that took effect in February. Specifically, the city of Osaka and nearby Kobe, Ashiya, Nishinomiya and Amagasaki in western Japan, as well as Sendai in northeastern Japan, will be subject to the stronger measures.

The designation comes as new infections in Osaka continue to eclipse those of Tokyo, with the prefecture on Sunday confirming 593 new coronavirus cases, after reporting a single-day record of 666 cases the previous day.

Miyagi Prefecture has also reached Stage 4, the worst level on the government’s four-point scale, for the volume of weekly infection cases per 100,000 people by last Thursday, while Hyogo stands at Stage 3, according to the health ministry.

“The virus is rapidly spreading in the central areas (of the three prefectures). We will swiftly utilize the stronger measures to prevent it from spreading to the entire region,” Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of virus response, said Sunday on an NHK program.

Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura the same day told reporters that he wanted to “somehow” stop the resurgence with “concentrated efforts.”

Under the quasi-emergency measures, restaurants and bars in the six cities will be asked to close by 8 p.m. and could be slapped with a fine of up to 200,000 yen ($1,800) for noncompliance. They will also be asked to remove customers who refuse to cooperate and to install acrylic sheets to prevent droplet infection.

Stores that comply with the requests will be paid between 40,000 yen to 200,000 yen per day depending on their past sales. Authorities will increase patrols to check that establishments are adequately carrying out prevention measures.

Attendance at large events such as concerts and sports games will also be capped at 5,000, with the public asked to refrain from nonessential outings.

“Infections are spreading at workplaces and universities, and there are many people whose transmission routes are unknown. (Restrictions) on dining establishments alone won’t stem the spread,” a senior official of the Osaka prefectural government said.