Local government heads agreed Monday to ask residents of Sapporo, the capital of Japan’s northernmost main island, to refrain from non-essential outings following back-to-back days of record coronavirus infections in the region.
Hokkaido Gov Naomichi Suzuki and Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto agreed in an emergency meeting to urge the city’s residents to not travel to other areas of the island, with 189 new infections reported in the prefecture on Monday.
Hokkaido, a popular tourist spot known for its cold temperatures and large snowfall, has recently been experiencing a rapid rise in daily infections, with more than 200 cases reported on four consecutive days through Sunday. It reported a record 236 cases Thursday.
Sapporo is expected to raise its alert for the pandemic to the fourth level, the second highest of the five on the island’s coronavirus scale, which indicates a rapid surge in infections and a need to implement measures to avert a great burden being put on medical facilities.
Raising the level will enable authorities to request limits be placed on operational capacities of facilities that have failed to implement measures against the pandemic.
The island initially requested eateries and entertainment businesses in Sapporo’s Susukino nightlife district to refrain from operating between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., while pledging 200,000 yen per business that follows the request.
But local authorities now plan to expand the request to the entire city and call on eateries without proper virus prevention measures to refrain from opening.
Meanwhile, Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura said Monday the central Japan prefecture is also looking to raise its coronavirus alert after it saw over 100 daily infections for six straight days through Sunday.
“We don’t expect a downward trend” for the time being, he said at a press conference.
In total across Japan, record daily coronavirus cases were reported for three consecutive days through Saturday, with the figure hitting 1,737 on that day, as Tokyo, Osaka and other major cities continued to see high infection numbers.
Japan’s nationwide cumulative total stands at over 119,300 cases, with the death toll topping 1,900.