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Asia Today: Central Japan region put under virus emergency

A governor in central Japan announced a state of emergency Thursday due to rising virus cases and asked businesses and people to curb their activities, especially during an upcoming holiday.

Aichi prefecture has been seeing more than 100 new infections reported daily since mid-July after an extended period of zero new daily cases. The prefecture includes the major city of Nagoya and the headquarters of Toyota Motor Corp., Japan’s top automaker.

Gov. Hideaki Ohmura told reporters businesses are being asked to close altogether or close early, and people are being asked to stay home at night, to prevent infections from spreading.

An empty Swanston Street is seen at night in the Central Business District as lockdown due to the continuing spread of COVID-19 prepares to start Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, Melbourne. Victoria state, Australia's coronavirus hot spot, announced on Monday that businesses will be closed and scaled down in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. (AP PhotoAsanka Brendon Ratnayake)

The requests continue through Aug. 24, a period that coincides with Japanese Obon holidays, when schools and many companies close.

“Please avoid non-essential activity during the Obon holidays,” Ohmura said, asking people not to dine out in big crowds or go out partying. “The situation we are in is very serious.”

About 70% of the recent cases were people in their 30s, and most were showing no or mild symptoms, but Ohmura said worries were growing about more vulnerable people getting sick.

Japan has not had a lockdown. The voluntary emergency measures put in place in April, asking for social distancing to be used and businesses to close, were gradually lifted.

The national government's actions have been called inadequate, pushing economic growth at the risk of human life, such as the “GoTo” campaign, which encourages domestic travel with government-backed discounts.

Last week, the southwestern island prefecture of Okinawa also declared its own local emergency. Other regional governments may take similar action.

Japan has so far nearly 42,700 coronavirus cases and about 1,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University tally based on official figures.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— The leader of Australia’s hot spot Victoria urged residents not to panic-buy as he announced reductions in meat productions. The state capital Melbourne began its first full day of tough lockdown restrictions on Thursday as Victoria posted 471 new virus infections and eight deaths. Premier Daniel Andrews said beef, lamb and pork production will be reduced by one third from late Friday because of the virus transmission risks in abattoirs and meat processing plants. Poultry production will be reduced by 20%. “All of these measures are designed to drive down to the lowest numbers of workers we can practically get to without at the same time delivering a shortage of products,” Andrews said. Andrews said there was no need for shoppers to stockpile. “You may not necessarily be able to get exactly the cut of meat that you want, but you will get what you need and you will get all the products that are, basically, fundamentally important to you,” he added.

— China's biggest recent outbreak of coronavirus has grown slightly. More than 600 people have developed COVID-19 in the far northwestern region of Xinjiang, with 27 new cases reported Thursday in its capital and largest city, Urumqi. Another three cases were reported in the northeastern port city of Dalian, where a smaller outbreak has been traced to a seafood market, and seven cases were reported among Chinese travelers arriving from overseas for a total of 37 over the previous 24 hours. Hong Kong reported 85 new virus cases and one additional death. The origin of 33 of the cases remains unknown, according to the city’s Center for Health Protection. Hong Kong has recorded 43 deaths from the virus among more than 3,700 cases.