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Japan PM vows all-out efforts to help Hokkaido fight virus spike

TOKYO • Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga yesterday vowed all-out efforts to help the country’s northern-most prefecture of Hokkaido tackle a recent resurgence of Covid-19 infections.

Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki had visited Mr Suga at his office in Tokyo and briefed him on the latest spike in Covid-19 infections in the prefecture.

The spike is believed to be related to cooler temperatures, with more people staying indoors, sometimes in poorly ventilated rooms, which helps the virus to spread.

Night-time entertainment establishments have also seen clusters of infections emerge, according to local officials.

Officials in Hokkaido reported 200 new daily Covid-19 infections on Monday, marking the highest level for the region since the outbreak of the virus in Japan.

Infections in Hokkaido have been in triple digits for four successive days through Sunday, with officials raising the pandemic alert level for the prefecture to level three on its five-tier scale.

Rising infections in Hokkaido, a popular travel destination, could see it cut from the government’s “Go To Travel” subsidy campaign.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato has hinted that removing Hokkaido from the domestic travel campaign was a possibility and discussions in this direction were taking place.

Mr Suzuki told Mr Suga that Hokkaido was planning to contain the outbreak of new clusters and would increase the number of beds at medical facilities for those infected and needing professional care.

The governor also explained that in Sapporo City, the capital off Hokkaido, new facilities will be utilised to treat 1,000 patients with minor symptoms of the coronavirus.

If infections continue to rise and spread throughout Japan’s northern-most prefecture, Mr Suzuki would ask the central government to provide assistance, as medical personnel and facilities would quickly be in short supply.

The governor also said he wanted the public to be informed about how to prevent infections during winter as the nation will also be contending with an influenza outbreak, which tends to hit the country each year towards the end of December.

At a press briefing after his meeting with Prime Minister Suga, Mr Suzuki said he planned to have the new outbreak of the virus under control by the end of this month and would carry out anti-viral measures – including comprehensive testing measures in entertainment districts – with support from the central government.

Mr Suga, for his part, pledged the central government’s all-out efforts in helping Hokkaido combat the virus.

Meanwhile, the Tokyo metropolitan government yesterday confirmed 293 new Covid-19 cases in the Japanese capital. This comes on the heels of 157 new cases on Monday. Tokyo, the hardest-hit by the virus, has now seen a cumulative total number of 33,060 cases.

Across Japan, the total number of cases stands at 109,191, with 1,834 deaths, based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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