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
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.