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Okinawa Pref. declares own state of emergency over virus to thwart health care collapse

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki is seen calling for residents to cooperate in containing the spread of the novel coronavirus, in the Okinawa Prefectural Government building in the city of Naha on July 31, 2020. (Mainichi/Takayasu Endo)

NAHA -- The Okinawa Prefectural Government declared its own state of emergency on July 31 following a recent surge in novel coronavirus infections.

    Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki announced that Japan's southernmost prefecture will be placed under a state of emergency between Aug. 1 and 15. The local government will ask residents to refrain from nonessential, nonurgent outings while calling for careful decisions about making trips to the prefecture from outside the prefecture. It is also requesting that eateries in the city of Naha limit their business hours to between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.

    "A dramatic surge in infections has been seen, and a collapse of the health care system must be prevented at all costs. We are issuing a state of emergency to let you all know that we are at a critical stage," said Gov. Tamaki in a press conference on July 31.

    Touching on the national government's recent response to the coronavirus outbreak, he commented, "I guess there's the issue of consistency with the 'Go To Travel' (domestic tourism promotion) campaign, but I think that the national government should issue a state of emergency."

    Okinawa Prefecture has seen a sudden spread of COVID-19 cases since late July. A total of 71 infections were confirmed on July 31, marking a new record high of single day cases for five consecutive days. Although a hotel in the city of Naha was opened to accommodate those with mild symptoms on July 30, the 235 available beds for COVID-19 patients have already been filled with inpatients, and there are apparently individuals who are waiting to be admitted.

    A total of 248 infections have also now been confirmed among people with a connection to U.S. military bases in Okinawa Prefecture.

    (Japanese original by Takayasu Endo and Nozomu Takeuchi, Naha Bureau)

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