• Sat. Oct 22nd, 2022

The threat of Japan’s hospital system collapsing amid surging coronavirus cases forces Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to expand a state of emergency so it covers about 55 per cent of the country.

Jan 13, 2021

Japan has just expanded its state of emergency to cover another seven regions as the country confronts record numbers of coronavirus infections and a new mutant strain from Brazil.
Japan’s health ministry announced it had detected the variant in four travellers from Brazil’s Amazonas state, which had 12 mutations including one also found in highly infectious variants discovered in England and South Africa.
The four people are in their teens and 40s and were detected by the country’s airport quarantine checks after arriving at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport earlier this month.
The country notified the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday and further analysis on the variant is underway.
Japan recorded 4,539 new infections on Tuesday after a record three days with more than 7,000 daily new cases, with 881 people in a serious condition.
Coronavirus infections are hovering at record-high levels in Japan as the nation faces a third wave.(ABC News: Jake Sturmer)
The country has been battling a third wave of COVID-19 infections and has recorded more than 4,179 people deaths from the virus.
Japan was set to restart its rugby season this week, after last year’s Top League season was cancelled entirely because of the pandemic.
But two matches scheduled for this weekend have already been cancelled due to outbreaks at three of the clubs involved.
Catch up on the main COVID-19 news from January 13 with our coronavirus blog.
At least 44 players and staff have nowtested positive to COVID-19.
Japan struggles to get control of COVID-19
Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures are currently in the middle of a state of emergency, but the restrictions are dependent on voluntary compliance.
Restaurants and bars are requested to close at 8:00pm and authorities want residents to limit unnecessary outings in the evenings.
The Metropolitan Government will provide up to 60,000 yen ($750) per day to bars and restaurants that comply, but whether it will be enough to stave off bankruptcy is unclear.
Record numbers of restaurants declared bankruptcy in Japan in 2020, according to Tokyo Shoko Research, eclipsing the previous high caused by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Though less seriously hit by the pandemic than many other countries, Japan has been unable to rein in the virus.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had been hesitant to accept the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s request to make the emergency declaration because of the significant economic consequences.
Record infections and the threat of collapse of the hospital system eventually forced his hand.
The state of emergency looks to to ramp up defences against the spread of the coronavirus.(ABC News: Jake Sturmer)
Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare says it was unable to secure spaces in hospitals or isolation facilities for 3,056 people with the virus between December 27 and January 2.
The week before, the Health Ministry was unable to secure beds for more than 1,700 infected people.
Now, Mr Suga has accepted a further request from the governors of the prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, Gifu, Fukuoka and Tochigi to expand the state of emergency.
It will mean about 55 per cent of Japan’s population will be under restrictions.
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Is the state of emergency response too late?
In an effort to help the struggling services sector, the Government had previously encouraged citizens to travel domestically and dine out by offering generous subsidies.
But it had to hit pause on the program late last year as COVID-19 cases soared.
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In a Kyodo News survey published on Sunday, about 79 per cent said Mr Suga’s decision to call the state of emergency for Tokyo came too late.
About 80 per cent said this year’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics should be cancelled or delayed.
A poll by Japan’s public broadcaster NHK found similar numbers wanted the Games to be cancelled or delayed.
The Japanese capital confirmed more than 1,200 new coronavirus cases on Monday.(AP: Eugene Hoshiko)
Data has shown the number of people in downtown districts in Tokyo has declined by about half compared to previous weekends but Shibuya’s scramble crossing still had 3.1 times as many people as in the previous state of emergency.
Koji Wada, a professor of public health at the International University of Health and Welfare in Tokyo, said it was important to stress the virus was not just a risk at one particular time of day.
“The Government has urged people to avoid nonessential outings, especially after 8:00pm, which gives people the impression the restrictions have only been tightened for night-time outings,” Professor Wada said.
“Person-to-person contact should be thoroughly reduced and the current restrictions on events are loose.
“The Government banned gatherings of more than 50 people during the previous state of emergency and additional measures are necessary for places where people gather.”
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