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Emergency Declared In Japanese Prefecture Hit By 2nd Wave Of Coronavirus Infections

Japan's Hokkaido prefecture, which accounted for the country's highest number of coronavirus infections as the pandemic initially swept through Asia, has seen a sudden uptick in cases, causing government officials there to declare a state of emergency less than a month after lifting a similar order.

The governor of Hokkaido, the country's northernmost main island and the largest prefecture by size, made the announcement Sunday following nearly a week of double-digit increases in cases in the prefecture, according to Kyodo news service.

"We are facing a crisis of a second wave in the spread of (the coronavirus) infections," Gov. Naomichi Suzuki told reporters in the capital, Sapporo.

The declaration, which falls under a law revised just last month in response to the pandemic, allows governors to issue stay-at-home directives to contain the spread of the virus.

Hokkaido declared a three-week state of emergency in February that was lifted on March 19. The prefecture had begun to reopen schools and was even allowing carefully orchestrated public gatherings.

But the latest order reverses all that, asking residents once again to refrain from nonessential trips outside their homes and closing prefectural primary and secondary schools until May 6.

The directive comes amid a resurgence in virus cases throughout the country that prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week to issue a state of emergency for several other prefectures, in and around the capital, Tokyo, and Osaka.

Officials reported 166 new cases in Tokyo on Sunday, bringing the total there to more than 2,000.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman
Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.