Japan proposes adding 4 regions to Covid-19 state of emergency

Daily cases nationwide topped 10,000 for the first time, domestic media reported.
PHOTO: Reuters

TOKYO - Japan's government on Friday (July 30) proposed states of emergency in three prefectures near Olympic host city Tokyo and the western prefecture of Osaka, a cabinet minister said, as Covid-19 cases spike to records around the country.

An existing state of emergency for Tokyo and southern Okinawa island should be extended to Aug 31, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a panel of experts.

The experts are expected to sign off on the proposal and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to announce it formally later on Friday.

The Japanese capital announced a record 3,865 daily infections on Thursday, up from 3,177 a day earlier. Daily cases nationwide topped 10,000 for the first time, domestic media reported.

Noting that the health care system was already under strain, Nishimura said: “By creating a strong framework for the region as a whole, we want to suppress the spread of the virus by all means”.

Suga and Olympics organisers have denied there is any link between the July 23-Aug 8 Summer Games and the recent sharp spike in cases.

Athletes and other attendees from around the world must follow strict rules to prevent any spread of the virus within the “Olympic bubble” or to the wider city. Spectators are banned from most venues.

This week's spike in cases prompted the government's top medical adviser to urge a "stronger, clearer" message" about the growing risks from the pandemic, including to the increasingly strained medical system.

Olympics organisers announced 24 new Games-related infections, including three athletes, taking the total since July 1 to 193.

But experts worry that holding the Games sends a confusing message to the public about the need to limit their activities to contain the virus as the highly transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19 spreads.

Less than 30 per cent of residents of Japan are fully vaccinated. Nishimura repeated that all those who want to get vaccinated should be able to do so by October or November.

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