Japan announces 3rd virus emergency in Tokyo, Osaka area

Tokyo — Japan announced on Friday the third state of emergency in Tokyo and the three western provinces, on suspicion that it was enough to curb the rapid resurgence of the coronavirus just three months before the Olympics. did.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced an emergency situation in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo from April 25th to May 11th.

According to Suga, this step is primarily “short and focused” to prevent people from traveling and spreading the virus during Japan’s “Golden Week” vacation from late April to the first week of May. Thing.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused to many people,” said Mr. Suga, who vowed to do everything in his power to prevent a third emergency. However, he said he was wary of the rapid spread of new variants of the virus in four prefectures and that stricter measures were needed.

Mr. Suga said he plans to ensure that sufficient vaccines are delivered to local governments so that all 36 million elderly people nationwide will be able to receive a second dose by the end of July. ..

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Japan’s third emergency is only a month after the end of the previous emergency in the Tokyo area. For days, experts and local leaders said the ongoing semi-emergency measures had failed and more stringent measures were urgently needed.

Past emergency measures issued a year ago and in January have been toothless and only approved non-compulsory requests. In February, the government strengthened antivirus legislation that would allow authorities to issue binding orders to reduce or close business hours in exchange for compensation for violators and penalties for violators. did.

These measures include the closure requirements for bars, department stores, malls, theme parks, theaters and museums. Restaurants that do not offer alcohol or public transport are required to close early. The school remains open, but the university is asked to return to online classes.

Wearing masks, staying at home, and other measures for the general public are not mandatory, and experts are worried about whether to comply.

Japan, which has caused about 500,000 cases and 10,000 deaths, has not forced a blockade. However, people have become impatient, uncooperative, and largely ignored ongoing measures as the infection accelerated.

Osaka, the epicenter of this revival, has been in a semi-emergency state since April 5, and has expanded to 10 regions, including Tokyo, which was promoted by the Kan administration as an alternative to an emergency situation with less economic damage.

Hirofumi Yoshimura, the governor of Osaka Prefecture, who requested an emergency on Tuesday, said the semi-emergency measures were not working and the hospital was full of patients.

Treatment of COVID-19 is primarily limited to a small number of public hospitals, but many small private institutions do not support or are unprepared for infectious diseases.

Osaka recorded 1,162 new cases on Friday, compared to 759 in Tokyo.

The government has also delayed the deployment of vaccinations and has little protection of the population before the start of the Olympic Games on July 23.

The end of the May 11 emergency, shortly before the expected visit of President Thomas Bach of the International Olympic Committee, has led to speculation that the government prioritizes the Olympic schedule over people’s health.

Mr. Suga said Japan had no choice but to hold the match according to the IOC’s decision. “The IOC has the right to make decisions, and the IOC has already decided to host the Tokyo Olympics,” said Mr. Suga. “We aim to hold the game while taking strong steps to protect people’s lives from the spread of the infection.”

Suga is already reluctant to hurt the pandemic-damaged economy and faces criticism that it is slow to take anti-virus measures.

While Japan’s vaccination campaign lags behind many countries and the supply of imported vaccines is in short supply, attempts to develop their own vaccines are still in their infancy. Inoculation began in mid-February, but progress has been slow due to a shortage of vaccines and health care workers.

The surge in hospital floods has raised concerns about further staff shortages and delayed vaccinations.

Mari Yamaguchi