Photo/Illutration Directors of the National Governors’ Association express a sense of crisis over the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in an online meeting held on Jan. 6. (Harufumi Mori)

The National Governors’ Association, at an emergency meeting of directors on Jan. 6, agreed that the sixth wave of novel coronavirus infections has hit Japan and that urgent measures are needed to tackle the crisis.

The directors at the online meeting compiled proposals for the central government, particularly in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

They asked the central government to promptly consider requests from governors for pre-emergency measures against COVID-19 and to enhance safeguards to prevent the virus from spilling out of U.S. military bases in Japan.

The governors of Okinawa, Yamaguchi and Hiroshima prefectures have all requested pre-emergency measures from the central government.

Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki said at the meeting that the daily number of new COVID-19 cases had doubled in two days in his prefecture.

He emphasized the need for immediate action, saying, “At the current pace, (our) daily tally will reach 8,000 in 10 days’ time, but it’s impossible to test 8,000 people in one day.”

Yamaguchi Governor Tsugumasa Muraoka said at the meeting that he would ask bars and restaurants in his prefecture to refrain from serving alcohol and to close by 8 p.m. as if the prefecture were under a COVID-19 state of emergency.

Both Muraoka and Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said at the meeting that they believed the spread of COVID-19 in their areas originated at U.S. military bases.

They also said U.S. forces should share more information about infections among their personnel and conduct more robust testing for COVID-19.

Tamaki requested that the National Governors’ Association ask the central government to review the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, after pointing out that U.S. military personnel and related individuals are exempt from Japan’s quarantine rules under SOFA.