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Q&A: Japan's new, quasi-emergency coronavirus measures

People wearing face masks walk in Osaka's Minami area on April 3, 2021. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The following are questions and answers regarding Japan's new, strict measures to curb coronavirus infections without declaring a state of emergency, implemented Monday in Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures.

    Q: What are the measures and how are they being implemented?

    A: A legal revision in February enabled the central government to designate certain prefectures as an area that can take steps such as fining eateries defying requests to shorten operating hours even without a state of emergency being issued. Governors apply the steps to cities and towns rather than an entire prefecture under an emergency declaration.

    Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he would consider allowing prefectures other than the three to follow suit if their governors file a request.

    Q: How is the infection situation in Japan?

    A: Last month, Japan fully lifted its second state of emergency over the virus that had been in place since January in Tokyo and some other regions, before the torch relay for this summer's Olympics began in the country. But the recent resurgence of the virus in some prefectures, including Osaka, has prompted the view that they have already entered a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases.

    Q: What measures will be taken under the quasi-emergency situation?

    A: Prefectural governors can ask restaurants and bars to shorten operating hours, prohibit customers who do not wear face masks without due reasons, install hand sanitizers and ventilate their shops, among other steps.

    Q: What penalties will be imposed for eateries that do not comply with the requests?

    A: They will be fined up to 200,000 yen ($1,800) after court procedures, compared with up to 300,000 yen under a state of emergency.

    Q: Is there any other difference from measures warranted under a state of emergency?

    A: Governors only make requests and orders for cutting business hours. Under a state of emergency, meanwhile, they request and order not only shorter hours but also store closures.

    In addition, declaring a state of emergency depends on whether the infection situation has reached Stage 4, the worst level on the central government's scale. But the quasi-emergency measures are applied before reaching that stage and when there are risks of infections spreading and a growing strain on medical systems in the prefecture.

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