TOKYO: Japan is encouraging regional officials to countermeasures against the spread of a new coronavirus variant that has sent cases to record lows but has no plans for any broad national measures.
The seventh wave of COVID-19 pushed the daily number of new cases in Japan to a record 233,094 on Thursday, as the BA.5 type of virus spreads, straining medical services and disrupting company operations.
Japan has never imposed a national lockdown on the scale of some other countries, instead periodically calling on people to stay at home as much as possible and limiting the opening hours of restaurants and bars.
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara reiterated on Friday that regional authorities should tailor their response to specific situations.
“Rather than a national response, we want to support regional authorities in their efforts based on their local situations,” Kihara told a regular news conference.
The western city of Osaka recently urged older adults to avoid non-essential walks. The country of 125.8 million people has fared better than some in dealing with the pandemic, with 32,308 deaths at the start of 2020.
But the World Health Organization said that as of July 24, Japan had the world’s highest number of new coronavirus cases.
Though the number of deaths in the new wave has been low compared with previous ones, new infections are beginning to take a toll on some sectors.
Train companies in some regions have had to curtail services due to a lack of staff. Toyota Motor Corp suspended night shift operations at one production line of its Takaoka factory in central Japan this week because of COVID.