Special coronavirus measures started Monday in Osaka and its neighboring prefecture in western Japan and another prefecture in the north as Japan tries to minimize the impact to specific areas where infections are rising ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi in the north have had sharp increases in daily cases since early March.
Experts have raised concerns about Osaka’s rapid spike — with many cases linked to new variants of the virus first detected in Britain — and the burden on health care.
Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said he was alarmed by the fast-spreading new variants and urged the residents to use caution and cooperate. Serious cases are on the rise and flooding hospitals and that medical systems in Osaka are under heavy pressure, Yoshimura said. He has proposed canceling a torch relay scheduled to pass Osaka City on April 14 and is now discussing a route change.
Under the measures, effective for one month until May 5, restaurants and bars in Osaka, Nishinomiya, Amagasaki, Ashiya, Kobe and Sendai are asked to close by 8 p.m. Residents are requested to stick to basic safety measures including mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding non-essential outings.