Photo/Illutration Pedestrians in Tokyo’s Ginza district on July 2, 2022 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The central government is planning legal revisions that will upgrade the special alert system for heatstroke and promote the use of public “cooling facilities” during extremely hot weather.

The new special alert will be issued based mainly on surges in the heat index, which takes into account temperatures and humidity levels, and experts’ opinions.

The government will submit a bill to amend the climate change adaptation law to include new measures to prevent heatstroke.

If passed, the law will take effect from summer 2024.

Local governments will designate certain air-conditioned places as cooling facilities, such as government buildings, public centers, libraries and shopping malls.

If the new special alert is issued, the public can take shelter from the heat at these designated facilities.

“We want to publicize (the cooling facilities) among households who do not have air conditioning and elderly people who are at risk of developing severe heatstroke symptoms,” an Environment Ministry official said.

According to a Cabinet Office survey, about 10 percent of households in Japan do not have air conditioning.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the number of extremely hot days—when temperatures hit 35 degrees or higher--has increased notably since the 1990s.

Last year, central Tokyo observed nine straight extremely hot days from June 25.

Other locations in the country also baked under high temperatures from late June to early July.

For three consecutive years from 2018, the number of people who died from heatstroke in Japan exceeded 1,000.

The existing alert system was established in 2020 by the Environment Ministry and the JMA. It is issued when the heat index is expected to top 33.

The JMA splits the country into 58 forecast areas. When the alert is issued, residents in the area affected are urged to use air conditioners.

The alert was issued 889 times last summer, including 10 times in Tokyo and 13 times in Osaka Prefecture.

Some local governments have already secured cooling facilities, but it has not become a common practice yet.

According to an Environment Ministry survey conducted last year, 125, or 21 percent, of the 592 responding municipalities said they have such cooling facilities.