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Tokyo governor says will ask government for emergency measures to stem COVID-19 rise

FILE PHOTO: A man walks with an umbrella on a sunny day as commuters wear protective face masks amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Tokyo, Japan, April 6, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Thursday she would ask the central government to impose emergency measures in the capital region to stem a surge of COVID-19 infections.

Koike made the comments after a meeting with medical experts who warned of an explosive surge in cases that could exceed the third and most deadly wave of the pandemic so far. Experts also warned of a rise in more infectious mutant strains of the virus.

“This is a very worrisome situation,” Koike said. “And we need to be more vigilant of the increase in the number of people infected with the mutant strains.”

Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures started a month of targeted lockdown measures on Monday to rein in a more virulent strain of the virus.

The new measures are based on a revised infection control law and can be applied to a narrower area than a state of emergency that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared for most of the country in early January.

The controls allow regional governments to order businesses to shorten hours and to impose fines of 200,000 yen ($1,820) or publish the names of those that do not comply. Additionally, residents are being asked to work from home and to refrain from activities such as karaoke.

Cases are on an uptrend in Tokyo, which is due to host the Summer Olympic Games from late July, with Wednesday’s 555 new infections the highest since early February. On Thursday, the tally was 545.

Japan has also been relatively slow in inoculating its citizens, with just 1 million people having received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine - the only one approved so far - since February out of a population of 126 million.

($1 = 109.6300 yen)

Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Michael Perry and Kim Coghill

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