Tue, September 28, 2021

international

Tokyo virus situation is out of control, panel expert says


A member of a Tokyo Metropolitan Government coronavirus advisory panel of experts said it was now impossible to control the spread of Covid-19 in the capital.

"Infections are raging at disaster level -- it's an emergency," Norio Omagari said at a Thursday panel meeting with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike. "It's impossible to control the situation."

His comments came as the city and national governments consider whether to extend a state of emergency in Tokyo, which is experiencing its worst-ever wave of virus cases as it has joined the list of countries battling surges attributed to the delta variant. The emergency is currently set to be lifted at the end of August.

The imposition of successive states of emergency has become less effective over time, with many bars and restaurants ignoring instructions to close early and stop serving alcohol. Several experts have blamed the government for issuing mixed messages about the seriousness of the situation, including by staging the Olympics, saying this may have prompted people to drop their guard.

Koike called for measures that would reduce the frequency of people's outings by 50%, compared with the period immediately prior to the current emergency, echoing the advice of a government panel reported by public broadcaster NHK earlier in the day. She urged people to avoid going on vacation and stay away from their home towns.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, whose public support hit new lows this week amid criticism of his handling of the pandemic, has rejected the idea of European-style lockdowns to contain the virus, ahead of a general election that must be held in the next three months. He has told reporters he's relying on the vaccine rollout, and has also set limits on which patients can be hospitalized, in a bid to conserve resources.

Japan has fully vaccinated about 36% of its population, compared with 60% in the U.K. and 51% in the U.S., according to Bloomberg's Vaccine Tracker.

Tokyo found 4,989 new cases of Covid-19 Thursday, near a record of 5,042 hit a week ago. The number of patients in hospitals and those in serious condition is continuing to hit records, putting the capital's health care system under strain. Tokyo had 218 people suffering serious symptoms, its highest yet, while it has 392 beds available for those in serious condition.

Japan's central government is considering extending the state of emergency into September, and expanding it to more regions, the Sankei newspaper reported earlier Thursday.

Published : August 13, 2021

By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Isabel Reynolds