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Japan will extend COVID-19 restrictions in a majority of prefectures

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Japan will extend COVID-19 restrictions in a majority of prefectures

Japan will extend COVID-19 restrictions in a majority of prefectures today. Photo: The Japan Times

Japan will extend COVID-19 measures for 18 of the country’s 31 prefectures today.

Restrictions were due to expire today, but because of stubbornly high case numbers and hospitalization rates, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida extended them until March 21 for most prefectures. The move comes as Kishida faces internal criticism from within his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)—particularly from former-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-business faction—over strict border measures which, opponents argue, stifle the impact of international student earnings on the economy.

Kishida—after six months in office—is still walking a tightrope between COVID-19 policy and keeping the LDP factions happy. This is reflected in his pivot on COVID-19 measures. Kishida—initially hesitant to lift the cap of 3,500 overseas students in January—was pressured to raise the cap, first to 5,000, and then to 7,000 from March 14.

With booster vaccination rates at a very low 22% of the eligible national population, case numbers are likely to remain high for the foreseeable future. This will likely force Kishida to further extend COVID-19 restrictions in the hardest-hit prefectures beyond March 21. However, Kishida will come under further pressure to drop the cap on students altogether as debate over its inefficacy increases.

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