Japan declares COVID-19 state of emergency in Okinawa prefecture

The Japanese government on Friday approved a plan to add Okinawa, a popular tourist destination, to a list of prefectures where a state of emergency has been declared, NHK news agency reported.

The state of emergency imposed in nine prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka will be in effect from May 23 until June 20. According to the minister in charge of the coronavirus response, Nishimura Yasutoshi, infections are spreading across Japan, and the health care system is overstretched in some areas.

The minister added that a virus variant that was first detected in India and has now been found in Japan, is highly transmissible, and may neutralize the effects of vaccines and human immunity.

Okinawa, which currently implements less strict anti-virus measures, will now need to adopt tougher measures as the number of new cases outgrows the hospital bed space.

Nishimura also suggested that, with noticeable improvement in the situation in the area, Ehime Prefecture should lift its less stringent measures on Saturday even though the measures were expected to remain in force until the end of May.

The government plans to brief lawmakers about its plans on Friday when it hopes to receive approval for the plans at a task force meeting.