The Japanese government will extend the state of emergency in Tokyo and three more areas on Friday for about three weeks until the end of May to curb the rise of new coronavirus cases just months before the start of the Tokyo Olympics.
The government had expected a “short and powerful” state of emergency to contain a fourth wave of infection, but new cases in the capital Tokyo and the second city of Osaka are still at high levels, the minister said. of Economics, Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is also at the helm. of pandemic measures.
The extension of the state of emergency until 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 one year to cause of the pandemic.
“Osaka is in a particularly dangerous situation with its medical system,” Nishimura said Friday at the start of a meeting with a group of medical and economic experts, noting that varieties of variants are spreading rapidly.
“We have a strong sense of danger that Tokyo may soon become in the same situation as Osaka.”
The group later approved the expansion plan, Nishimura said. Formal government approval is scheduled for later, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will hold a press conference at 7pm (10am GMT).
All hospital beds for critically ill patients in Osaka are occupied, public broadcaster NHK reported on Friday.
Across the country, Japan has reported 618,197 cases of new coronavirus infection and nearly 10,585 deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, government data showed.
The state of emergency has been extended
Nishimura said the government intends to place Aichi prefecture in western Tokyo and Fukuoka prefecture in the southwest under a state of emergency: it joins the prefectures of Tokyo and Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto, where almost a quarter of the population live.
The northern island of Hokkaido and two more areas will be added to the regions under a “near state of emergency,” he said.
Under the expanded state of emergency, bars, restaurants, karaoke and other alcohol-serving places will continue to be asked to stop consuming alcohol, while people will continue to be asked to avoid making unnecessary trips.
But other requests will be asked, Nishimura said.
For example, shopping facilities such as shopping malls will be asked to shorten opening hours instead of closing them completely, although he noted that Tokyo and Osaka would make their own decisions based on local conditions. .
Japan has not suffered from the virus as badly as other nations, but its vaccination campaign is far behind, even many older people are still waiting for inoculation.
Still, Japan and the International Olympic Committee insist the Games will take place, even though foreign spectators have been banned. A decision on national viewers has yet to be reached.
Upcoming test events for the Olympics, including an athletics test over the weekend, will not be affected by the state of emergency extension. The Diving World Cup, which featured more than 200 athletes from 50 countries, was held in Tokyo last week under the current state of emergency.
U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer Inc. and German partner BioNTech SE said Thursday they would dose their new coronavirus vaccine to help inoculate athletes and other members of Olympic delegations.
However, in Fukuoka, the governor of the prefecture said it could be “difficult” to accommodate the relief of the Olympic torch under a state of emergency, the Jiji news agency reported on Thursday.
The relief will take place in the prefecture on 11 and 12 May.