The Japanese government is set to add Okinawa Prefecture to the areas under its COVID-19 state of emergency declaration amid surging infections in the southern island region, government sources said Thursday.
The government plans to impose the measure in Okinawa from Sunday to June 20, according to other sources, a move that would bring the total number of prefectures under the emergency to 10.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters after a meeting with his Cabinet members involved in the fight against the novel coronavirus infections that the government will consult with experts on Friday before making a final decision.
The move comes after Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki on Wednesday asked for his prefecture to be added as the spread of infections is straining the health system.
Meanwhile, the government is expected to reject a gubernatorial request that the central Japan prefecture of Gifu be included in the emergency declaration, deeming the infection situation there stable, the sources said.
Suga has already declared a state of emergency in nine prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka until May 31, with restaurants and bars being told to close by 8 p.m.
Suga said the infections in Tokyo and Osaka have been trending downward, adding, "It is important to redouble efforts to prevent the spread of the virus in the areas under the state of emergency."
Okinawa is currently under a quasi-state of emergency, which allows the governor to single out areas with anti-virus measures such as telling restaurants to close early. In contrast, a full-fledged emergency declaration covers an entire prefecture.
The central government had initially been cautious about adding Okinawa as the prefecture has yet to ban eateries from serving alcoholic beverages. But it reversed its position after the prefecture reported more than 200 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with its weekly total up 1.52 times from the previous week.
On Thursday, the Okinawa prefectural government confirmed 198 new coronavirus cases, the second-highest number for a single day.
"By taking strict measures, the residents will be made aware of the current situation, and if each and every one of them takes measures, the spread of infection can be prevented," Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki said in a press conference.
An expert panel at the health ministry has pointed to the spread of infections among young people in Okinawa after the Golden Week holidays in early May and that it is likely to strain the medical system.
A popular tourist destination for its warm climate, beaches and distinct Ryukyu culture, Okinawa also hosts the bulk of the U.S. military presence in Japan.