Japan widens virus emergency amid surge

A habituation effect in Tokyo is setting in and the effect of anti-coronavirus measures is fading.
A habituation effect in Tokyo is setting in and the effect of anti-coronavirus measures is fading.

Japan is set to expand the coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo to neighbouring areas and the western city of Osaka in the wake of record-breaking surge in infections while the capital hosts the Olympics.

A government panel on Friday approved the plan putting Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba, as well as Osaka, under the state of emergency from Monday until August 31.

The measures already in place in Tokyo and the southern island of Okinawa will be extended until the end of August.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is scheduled to officially announce the measures later on Friday. Five other areas, including Hokkaido, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka, will be placed under less-stringent emergency restrictions.

Tokyo has reported a record rise in cases for three consecutive days, including 3865 on Thursday. The cases have doubled since last week, and officials have warned they may hit 4500 a day within two weeks.

Officials said 2995 were hospitalised, about half the current capacity of 6,000 beds, with some hospitals already full. More than 10,000 others were isolating at home or designated hotels, with nearly 5600 waiting at home while health centres decide where they will be treated.

At Friday's meeting of government experts, Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said the spike in Tokyo despite being under the state of emergency for two weeks is an "alarming development that is different from anything we have seen before".

Nationwide, Japan reported 10,687 confirmed cases on Thursday, exceeding 10,000 for the first time. It has recorded 15,166 fatalities from COVID-19, including 2,288 in Tokyo, since the pandemic began.

As of Thursday, 27 per cent of Japan's population has been fully vaccinated. The percentage of the elderly who are fully vaccinated is 71.5 per cent.

Australian Associated Press