Japan extends virus emergency

8 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

TOKYO: A virus state of emergency in Tokyo and other parts of Japan was extended on Friday, less than three months before the Olympics.

While many western nations have begun a gradual opening-up buoyed by rapid vaccine roll-outs and falling case numbers, much of the world continues to battle a virus that has now claimed over 3.2 million lives, reports AFP.

Japan’s Covid-19 outbreak remains much smaller than in many countries, with around 10,500 deaths.

But its vaccine rollout is moving slowly and more infectious variants are driving fresh waves of contagion, with record case numbers seen in some regions and medics warning that hospitals are under strain.

The pandemic has disrupted test events for the upcoming Olympics, with several postponed, cancelled or moved abroad, although the Diving World Cup and a rowing qualifier went ahead this week in Tokyo with athletes from abroad.

The emergency measures, less strict than blanket lockdowns in other countries, had been due to end on May 11 but will now continue until the end of the month, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said.

“The number of new virus cases is at a high level in major cities, while hospitals continue to be overwhelmed in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures,” he said.

Osaka governor Hirofumi Yoshimura has warned the western region’s medical system is “reaching breaking point”, with reports of Covid-19 patients dying while waiting for an ambulance.