Panel discusses virus response guidelines for local gov'ts

A government advisory panel on coronavirus countermeasures discussed Friday guidelines for local municipalities to implement in response to the pandemic, as infection numbers continue to increase across Japan.
Tokyo reported 462 new cases of coronavirus infection. Of the total, 304, or 66%, are in their 20s and 30s. The single-day day figure pushed Tokyo's cumulative total above 15,000.
With Japan's Obon holiday season beginning next week, there is concern that the movement of people will further spread the virus.
The panel proposed assessing six types of data such as hospital bed occupancy rates, percentage of people testing positive and a weekly tally of newly reported infections per 100,000 people in deciding whether to intensify local responses.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of the coronavirus response, said at a panel meeting Japan has entered an "important phase" in tackling the viral spread with a recent upsurge in infections.
"There are no immediate shortages of hospital beds (for coronavirus patients) at a national level, but health care systems in some regions are vulnerable," he said.
The government is planning to classify the state of infections in each prefecture into four categories of increasingly serious assessments -- namely "none or sporadic," "gradually increasing," "rapidly increasing" and "explosive."
In accordance with the situation, the state will indicate policy measures to be taken by local municipalities.
Tokyo and Osaka, the two prefectures hardest-hit by the virus, currently fall under the category of "gradually increasing" with their daily counts of new infections continuing to hit triple-digits in recent times.
Prefectures in this category will be advised to ask bars and restaurants to limit the number of customers and event organizers to restrict the number of attendees to slow the pace of infections.
In the event the "explosive" status is predicted to be imminent, the guidelines would propose the declaration of a fresh state of emergency by the central government that will allow prefectural governors to request people refrain from going out and some businesses to suspend operations.

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