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Japan governors ask central government for test supplies as omicron rages

As the omicron variant rages across the country, Japan’s governors on Friday urged the central government to secure stable supplies of COVID-19 antigen test kits and reagents for PCR tests, while also voicing doubts over the effectiveness of quasi-emergency measures.

The proposal adopted by the National Governors’ Association said that medical and health care systems are approaching a critical point in many areas as the infection spreads.

The proposal was adopted at an online meeting of the association the day after 18 more prefectures were placed in the COVID-19 pre-emergency stage.

“The infection situation is completely different from that of the delta variant. We want the central government to promptly work out measures that fit the unique characteristics of the omicron variant,” Tottori Gov. Shinji Hirai, the head of the association, said at the outset of the meeting.

The proposal said the virus is spreading rapidly not only at restaurants and bars but also at schools and homes, calling on the central government to decide on measures that are effective against the omicron strain and review its comprehensive package of COVID-19 measures and basic coronavirus response policy.

The proposal also demanded a clear standard for deciding whether to have coronavirus patients self-isolate at home or be hospitalized.

The central government should work to secure U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine for booster shots as early as possible, the proposal added.

The online meeting was attended by all but one of the country’s 47 governors.

Tokushima Gov. Kamon Iizumi said that prefectural governments should be allowed to request partial closures of local nursery schools where the coronavirus is raging in order to avoid complete shutdowns.

Some governors voiced doubts about the effectiveness of pre-emergency measures, which mainly restrict the operations of restaurants and bars.

The infection is spreading mainly at schools and nurseries, and it is very difficult to achieve positive results just by requesting that eating and drinking establishments shorten operating hours, Ehime Gov. Tokihiro Nakamura said.

The pre-emergency designation is “useless,” Yamanashi Gov. Kotaro Nagasaki said. “Restrictions on the operations of eateries and bars are almost the only tool we are given.”

Meanwhile, Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki said the pre-emergency measures have produced results to some extent, noting that Okinawa’s virus resurgence is believed to have peaked.

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