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TOKYO: More than half of Tokyo’s hospital beds reserved for COVID-19 patients were occupied on Tuesday (February 1), a level that officials have previously noted as criteria for requesting a state of emergency.

The capital and most of Japan are now under control to contain record coronavirus cases fueled by the contagious Omicron variant.

Tokyo has reserved nearly 7,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, and admissions have risen sharply this month, reaching 50.7 percent on Tuesday. New infections rose to 14,445.

Governor Yuriko Koike had said 50 percent bed usage would be a threshold for requesting an emergency declaration from the central government.

But last week he told reporters that such a request would not be automatic and would also take into account the opinions of health experts and the number of serious cases.

On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the government was not considering declaring a state of emergency.

The current restrictions empower regional governors to order restaurants and bars to reduce their business hours and stop serving alcohol.

A full state of emergency, not used in Japan since September last year, would mean tougher measures, such as fines for businesses that don’t comply, as well as limits on attendance at sporting events and concerts.

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