Japan extends coronavirus emergency in Tokyo, into other areas ahead of Olympics
Japan extended a state of emergency in Tokyo and three other regions on Friday until the end of May to stem an outbreak of new coronavirus cases fueled by the spread of virus variants just months before the Olympics from Tokyo.
The government had hoped that a “brief and powerful” state of emergency would contain a fourth wave of infection, but new cases in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka are still at high levels, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said , announcing the decision.
The extension of the state of emergency to May 31 from May 11 will leave a margin of less than two months before the start of the Games on July 23, which were postponed last year due to the pandemic. Read more
âThere is a critical shortage of hospital beds in Osaka and Hyogo,â Suga said at a meeting of the government task force. Hyogo is the prefecture west of Osaka.
Suga will hold a press conference at 7 p.m. (10 a.m. GMT) to explain the decision.
Earlier, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is also in charge of pandemic measures, said variants of the virus were spreading rapidly and the government feared Tokyo would soon run out of hospital beds.
At a retirement home in Osaka, 61 residents were infected with the coronavirus and 14 died while awaiting hospitalization, the NHK state broadcaster reported.
Osaka reported 1,005 new cases on Friday, while Tokyo had 907. Nationwide, Japan has recorded 618,197 cases of infection and 10,585 deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, according to government figures.
The government also placed Aichi Prefecture, home to Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), and southwestern Fukuoka Prefecture under a state of emergency – joining Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto, where current measurements began on April 25.
The northern island of Hokkaido and two other prefectures have been added to the “near-state of emergency” regions, now totaling eight of Japan’s 47 prefectures.
Under the extended state of emergency, bars, restaurants, karaoke bars and other places serving alcohol will remain closed, while people will be urged to avoid unnecessary trips.
But other restrictions will be relaxed.
Large commercial facilities such as shopping malls will be allowed to reopen but for shorter hours – although Nishimura noted that Tokyo and Osaka Prefecture would make their own decisions based on their terms.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told a press conference that details of Tokyo’s measures would come later on Friday.
Japan has not suffered as much from the virus as other countries, but its vaccination campaign has been slow, even many elderly people are still waiting to be vaccinated.
Still, Japan and the International Olympic Committee insist the Games will take place, although foreign spectators have been banned. A decision on domestic spectators will be made by June, Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto repeated on Friday.
Upcoming test events for the Olympic Games, including a weekend track and field event, will not be affected by the extension of the state of emergency. The Diving World Cup, which brought together more than 200 athletes from 50 countries, was held in Tokyo last week under the current state of emergency.
But in Fukuoka, the Olympic torch relay scheduled for May 11 and 12 would be canceled on public roads in some cities, media reported, citing the prefecture governor. Hyogo Prefecture is also likely to keep the slack off public roads when its turn comes later this month, Kyodo news agency reported.
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