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Osaka Pref. gov't altering virus response amid mounting sense of crisis

The Abeno Harukas skyscraper in Abeno Ward, Osaka, is seen in this image taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter. (Mainichi)

OSAKA -- With the announcement that new coronavirus infections in this western Japan prefecture exceeded 1,000 people on April 13, a sense of crisis has spread inside the Osaka Prefectural Government in charge of the response to the pathogen.

    The prefectural government decided in a hurry to hold a meeting of the coronavirus countermeasures headquarters on April 14, and is looking into further strengthening prevention, such as by having universities hold remote lectures, and for schools to refrain from putting on after-school activities, among other measures.

    According to the prefectural government, there were 6,283 new coronavirus infections in the prefecture in the seven-day period up to April 13, 1.5 times the 4,161 people in the preceding week. With the current trends suggesting no imminent fall in cases, a senior government official said, "We were prepared to see cases at the 1,000 mark, but it's frightening knowing that the infections peak still isn't in sight."

    A government employee working in coronavirus prevention also revealed, "They're shocking numbers. When the state of emergency was lifted at the end of February, we hadn't envisaged it reaching this level." Hospital beds for people with severe cases are virtually full, and the same employee said, "They're under a kind of pressure unlike that seen in the 'waves' before this."

    On March 13, Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said, "Infections are continuing to spread," indicating that it is possible there will be further increases in infected numbers.

    When the quasi-state of emergency began in the city of Osaka, Yoshimura indicated that he still accepted people having meals together, but urged people to eat in groups of four or less and thoroughly practice the "masked meal" method, in which individuals take off their masks when eating and put them back on for talking.

    But on April 13, he called on residents to refrain from going out eating, saying, "We want people to avoid places where alcohol is consumed, places where the risk of infection is high. Don't think that as long as you're practicing the masked meal method, you can go out more and more." He also said, "We want people to avoid close contact with one another. Please refrain from any outings that aren't essential to maintain your day-to-day life."

    (Japanese original by Masaki Ishikawa, Osaka City News Department, and Yuma Hori, Izumisano Resident Bureau)

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