Advertisement
Monday, Nov 29, 2021
Outlook.com
Outlook.com

Japan To Ease Virus Emergency Ahead Of Olympics As Daily Cases Fall

Experts at a virus panel meeting Thursday gave preliminary approval for government's plans to downgrade the emergency

Japan To Ease Virus Emergency Ahead Of Olympics As Daily Cases Fall
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says that he is determined to hold a “safe and secure” Games starting July 23. | AP Photo/Koji Sasahara
Japan To Ease Virus Emergency Ahead Of Olympics As Daily Cases Fall
outlookindia.com
2021-06-17T12:05:18+05:30

Japan is set to announce a decision Thursday to ease a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and six other areas this weekend, with new daily cases falling just as the country begins making final preparations for the Olympics starting in just over a month.

Japan has been struggling since late March to slow a wave of infections propelled by more contagious variants, with new daily cases soaring above 7,000 at one point and seriously ill patients straining hospitals in Tokyo, Osaka and other metropolitan areas.

Daily cases have since subsided significantly and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to downgrade the state of emergency when it expires on Sunday to less stringent measures.

Despite concerns by medical experts and the public over the potential risks of holding the Olympics, Suga has said he is determined to hold a “safe and secure” Games starting July 23.

Holding the Olympics before elections in the fall is also a political gamble for Suga, whose support ratings have tumbled over dissatisfaction with his handling of the pandemic, a slow vaccination drive and a lack of explanation how he intents to ensure the virus doesn't spread during the Olympics.

Experts at a virus panel meeting Thursday gave preliminary approval for government plans to downgrade the emergency in Tokyo, Aichi, Hokkaido, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka.

“We must do everything we can, and provide firm financial support as well,” said Dr. Shigeru Omi, head of a government COVID-19 panel.

At a parliamentary Health and Labour Committee last week, Omi cautioned that holding the Olympics in the middle of the pandemic is “abnormal” and warned that it would increase the risk of infections.

The measures will remain in Okinawa, where hospitals are still overwhelmed, while Hiroshima and Okayama will be taken off the list. Suga is expected to announce a final decision later Thursday. .

Japan does not enforce hard lockdowns and the state of emergency allows prefectural leaders to order closures or shorter hours for non-essential businesses. Those that comply are compensated and violators fined. Stay-at-home and other measures for the general population are only requests and are increasingly ignored.

Ryuji Wakita, the director-general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases who heads a government COVID-19 advisory board, said infections have decreased in many areas, but the slowing has bottomed out in the Tokyo region. He warned that infections could increase and that signs of a rebound are already seen among younger people.

Even as more people are getting the jabs and most of the country's 36 million senior citizens are expected to be fully inoculated by the end of July, younger people are largely unvaccinated and infections among them could quickly burden hospitals, Wakita said.

“In order to prevent another upsurge, it is crucial to prevent the people from roaming around during the Olympics and summer vacation,” he said.

Experts say it is crucial to accelerate the vaccine rollout for the Olympics to be safe.

Suga has opened up mass inoculation centers and started vaccinations at major companies, part of an ambitious target of as many as 1 million doses per day. As of Tuesday, only 5.6% of Japanese were fully vaccinated.

In hard-hit Osaka in western Japan, hospital capacity has improved and new infections dropped to 108 on Tuesday, down from more than 1,200 a day in late April.

In Tokyo, new cases are down to around 500 per day from above 1,100 in mid-May. Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike has said effective virus measures need to be kept in place.

Advertisement

Outlook Newsletters

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Read More from Outlook

Heavy Fines, Media Gag: Maharashtra Learns From Past As It Gears To Tackle Omicron

Heavy Fines, Media Gag: Maharashtra Learns From Past As It Gears To Tackle Omicron

Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray has instructed all the ministers in charge of the districts to tighten coordination with the local administration to ensure proper prevention of another Covid-19 outbreak.

Omicron Shows Why Countries Need To Start Sharing Their Vaccines

Omicron Shows Why Countries Need To Start Sharing Their Vaccines

'Despite the repeated warnings of health leaders, our failure to put vaccines into the arms of people in the developing world is now coming back to haunt us', wrote former British PM Gordon Brown.

Iyer Plays Down Record, Says 'Important Thing Is To Win Match'

Iyer Plays Down Record, Says 'Important Thing Is To Win Match'

Shreyas Iyer hit 105 and 65 against New Zealand to become the first Indian batter to score a century and half-century in his debut Test match.

Covid-19: Experts' Take On Omicron And Possibility Of Third Wave In India

Covid-19: Experts' Take On Omicron And Possibility Of Third Wave In India

Though the health experts and scientists in India have advised caution yet they feel that the current immune profile of the majority of the population in India makes them less vulnerable to Omicron as compared to any other country in the world.

Advertisement