Osaka, Hyogo, Miyagi to be designated for stronger anti-virus measures

The Japanese government is set to designate Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures for stronger measures against COVID-19 on Thursday amid a sharp resurgence in infections.
The steps, including fines for eateries that ignore mandates to shorten operating hours, will be in effect from April 5 for one month, said Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of the coronavirus response.
The move comes a day after Osaka reported 599 new infections, the most in more than two months and exceeding Tokyo's 414 cases, and with less than four months until the Tokyo Olympics.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will finalize the decision in the evening at a COVID-19 task force meeting.
The three prefectures will be the first to be designated as being on the brink of a state of emergency under a revised law that took effect in February.
Governors are given the authority to choose the cities and towns subject to the stronger measures. Nishimura said he expects the city of Osaka and nearby Kobe, Ashiya, Nishinomiya and Amagasaki in western Japan as well as Sendai in northeastern Japan to be named.
Restaurants and bars will be asked to close by 8 p.m. and could be slapped with a fine of up to 200,000 yen. Attendance at large events such as concerts and sports games will be capped at 5,000.
The government is arranging to pay up to 100,000 yen ($903) each to small- and medium-sized businesses that adopt shorter operating hours under the designation, and up to 200,000 yen to large firms.
Okinawa and Yamagata prefectures had also been under consideration for designation, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said the government will see if the prefectural governments' nonbinding requests for eateries to close early can bring down infections.
Osaka Gov Hirofumi Yoshimura had called for the stronger measures on Wednesday, saying the prefecture has already entered a fourth wave of coronavirus infections. On Thursday, he said the Olympic torch relay leg scheduled for Osaka city should be canceled.
The designation of the three prefectures comes a little more than a week after the government lifted the state of emergency in place for Tokyo and the surrounding area since Jan 7. A total of 11 prefectures including Osaka and Hyogo were included later and exited by the end of February.

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