TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s government is considering easing restrictions on alcohol sales in restaurants and lengthening their opening hours in areas under COVID-19 state of emergency measures, local media reported on Friday.
The restrictions could be eased between October and November depending on the progress in vaccinations, the Yomiuri newspaper reported, citing recommendations by health experts. The government may announce the easing plan after a coronavirus task force meeting on Friday.
Japan is battling its fifth and largest wave of COVID-19 cases, driven by the highly infectious Delta variant. Tokyo and much of the country remain under a state of emergency that is due to expire on Sept. 12.
Under the current measures, restaurants have been requested to shorten their hours and refrain from selling alcohol in an effort to reduce foot traffic and behaviours that can lead to contagion.
A panel of experts said on Wednesday that while the overall pace of infections has slowed recently, infections among younger people are high and serious cases remain near record levels, putting serious pressure on the medical system.
(Reporting by Rocky Swift; editing by Richard Pullin)