Sept. 9 (UPI) — The Japanese government announced Thursday that COVID-19 states of emergency in Tokyo and a number of other areas will again be extended, and will remain in effect for at least the rest of September.
States of emergency for 21 of Japan’s 47 prefectures were set to expire on Sunday. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has been criticized for his handling of the pandemic, said the number of coronavirus cases is still overwhelming hospitals and called on the public to be vigilant in adhering to health measures.
Thursday’s was the latest extension for the emergency declarations that were first made in May. They have been prolonged several times since, particularly due to surges in cases driven by the more contagious Delta variant.
The state of emergency in Tokyo was part of the reason all spectators were banned from the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in July and August.
Officials also said Thursday that there will be relaxed restrictions for people who are fully vaccinated through vaccine passports. The plan could begin as soon as October.
Japan recorded another 12,000 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. The country saw its highest daily number on Aug. 25 with 25,000 new patients.
COVID-19 response minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the nation’s healthcare system is overwhelmed with patients and experts have advised the government to ease restrictions only once hospital bed occupancy falls below 50%.
Japanese leaders are aiming to scale back capacity limits for public events and revive its “Go To Travel” campaign for fully vaccinated people. Proof of vaccination could be required at hospitals, nursing homes and medical facilities and to attend large public events and after-school activities.
Suga, who is stepping down as prime minister later this month, is also considering additional measures, like cutting four days off the quarantine period for travelers.