San Francisco Chronicle

Japan to raise alert level for capital region


Japan is raising the coronaviru­s alert level in the capital’s three neighborin­g prefecture­s and a fourth area in central Japan on Friday to allow tougher measures as a more contagious coronaviru­s variant spreads and adds to doubts about whether the Tokyo Olympics can go ahead.

The government approved the alert status for Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefecture­s in the capital region and Aichi in central Japan. The measure will allow heads of the prefecture­s to mandate shorter hours for bars and restaurant­s, along with punishment­s for violators and compensati­on for those who comply.

The measures begin Monday and continue through May 11 after the end of Japan’s “golden week” holidays.

“We must keep the infections from spreading further and causing a big nationwide resurgence,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said, asking the people to avoid traveling during the holidays.

The move comes only four days after Tokyo was placed on alert amid a surge in new infections. Many of the cases have been linked to nightlife and dining spots, but they have recently spread to offices, elderly care facilities and schools.

The surge has prompted concern among many Japanese about hosting the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled for July 23Aug. 8. On Thursday, a top lawmaker said there was a possibilit­y the Games could be canceled.

ISRAEL Prayers resume at sacred site

Tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers gathered at a sacred Jerusalem plaza for the first Friday prayers of Ramadan after coronaviru­s lockdowns kept the site offlimits last year.

About 70,000 faithful, most of them Arab citizens of Israel, prayed at AlAqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, said an official from the Islamic Waqf authority overseeing the Islamic section of the compound.

In normal times, Ramadan Friday prayers usually draw larger crowds that can reach up to 200,000 at AlAqsa. This year, Israel restricted entry of Palestinia­ns from the West Bank, allowing only 10,000 of those holding permits into Jerusalem, and only if they were fully vaccinated.

Other Palestinia­ns prayed at Israeli checkpoint­s in the West Bank in protest after they were blocked from entering.

Israel is largely easing

restrictio­ns after a rapid vaccinatio­n drive. In contrast, Palestinia­ns in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are scrambling with a slow vaccinatio­n rollout amid limited supplies and raging infection rates that triggered tougher lockdowns.

BANGLADESH Record daily death toll

Bangladesh recorded 101 new deaths Friday, the highest in a single day, raising the nation’s overall toll to 10,182.

The country registered another 4,417 positive cases in the last 24 hours, raising the total cases to 711,779, according to the Ministry of Health Affairs,

The new figures came amid reports that many hospitals in the capital, Dhaka, are overwhelme­d

with patients despite a nationwide lockdown. Officials say the number of deaths has increased in recent weeks as new strains of the virus spread quickly.

The number of daily cases has increased sevenfold in a month, while the number of deaths has doubled in recent weeks.

Using the AstraZenec­a vaccine from India’s Serum Institute, some 5.7 million people have been inoculated with the first dose while another 900,000 people have received the second dose.

NEW HAMPSHIRE State lifts mask requiremen­t

New Hampshire’s governor announced the state was lifting its mask mandate Friday, though individual communitie­s and businesses will be

allowed to continue to impose restrictio­ns.

New Hampshire was the last state in New England to adopt a mask mandate in November. With Friday’s change, it was the first to lift it.

Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, said he also plans to remove many business restrictio­ns on May 7 and replace them with recommenda­tions instead. He credited the state’s success in vaccinatio­ns for keeping deaths low and hospitaliz­ations at a manageable level.

MICHIGAN Tents used for patient surge

Michigan’s largest hospital system is turning to tents to handle the flow of people seeking emergency care as it deals with a crush of COVID19 patients in

suburban Detroit.

Beaumont Health says it has more than 800 patients being treated for COVID19, up from about 500 two weeks ago and just 128 at the end of February.

Dr. Nick Gilpin called it a “runaway train.” Beaumont officials says tents have been set up at some hospitals to evaluate people who show up for emergency care.

Statewide, the number of COVID19 patients is near record highs. Four hospitals this week reported they were at total capacity.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hasn’t ordered new restrictio­ns to reduce the spread of the coronaviru­s. She is urging people to wear masks, keep a safe distance and follow rules on large gatherings.

 ?? Ahmad Gharabli / AFP via Getty Images ?? Muslim worshipers take part in the first Friday prayers of the fasting month of Ramadan at the AlAqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. Coronaviru­s lockdowns kept the site offlimits last year.
Ahmad Gharabli / AFP via Getty Images Muslim worshipers take part in the first Friday prayers of the fasting month of Ramadan at the AlAqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. Coronaviru­s lockdowns kept the site offlimits last year.

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