Japan will give free coronavirus vaccines to all of its residents under a bill passed Wednesday, as the nation battles record numbers of daily cases. The bill, which says the government will cover all vaccine costs for Japan’s 126 million residents, was approved by the upper house.
The country has secured COVID-19 vaccines for 60 million people from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, and for a further 25 million people from biotech firm Moderna. It has also confirmed it will receive 120 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
The bill’s passage comes two weeks after Japan’s newly appointed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that the country was on “maximum alert” over the virus and medics have warned that hospitals are on the brink of collapse. Japan witnessed comparatively small COVID-19 outbreak overall, with around 2,100 deaths, 150,000 cases and has not imposed the strict lockdowns seen elsewhere.
The country is now experiencing a third wave of the disease, reporting an increased number of daily infections nationwide. The governor has urged residents to avoid non-essential outings and asked businesses serving alcohol to shut early, although there is no enforcement mechanism for these recommendations.