Virus Outbreak Japan

People wearing face masks make their way near a station in Osaka, western Japan Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. The sign, top left, reads " State of Emergency." Japan expanded a coronavirus state of emergency for several more prefectures, affecting more than half the population as infections spread across the country. (Kyodo News via AP)

TOKYO (AP) — Japan expanded a Coronavirus state of emergency to seven more prefectures Wednesday, affecting more than half the population amid a surge in infections across the country.

Prime Minister Yoshide Suga also said Japan will suspend fast-track entry exceptions for business visitors or others with residency permits, fully banning foreign visitors while the state of emergency is in place.

Suga’s announcement comes less than a week after he declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three nearby prefectures. The new declaration, which adds seven other prefectures in western and central Japan, takes effect Thursday and lasts until Feb. 7.

“The severe situation is continuing, but these measures are indispensable in turning the tide for the better,” Suga said at a news conference, bowing as he sought understanding from the public.

He said he put the seven prefectures in urban areas under the state of emergency to prevent infections from spilling over into smaller cities where medical systems are more vulnerable.

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