Japan’s government is extending a state of emergency in Tokyo and three other areas until the end of May to curb a surge in coronavirus cases just months before the start of the Tokyo Olympics.
The government had hoped a “short and powerful” state of emergency would contain a fourth wave of infection, but new cases in the capital Tokyo and second-city Osaka are still at high levels, said economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is also in charge of pandemic measures.
Extending the state of emergency to May 31 from May 11 will leave a margin of less than two months before the July 23 start of the Games, which were postponed a year due to the pandemic.
“Osaka particularly is in quite a dangerous situation with its medical system,” Nishimura said on Friday at the start of a meeting with a panel of medical and economic experts, noting that variant strains are spreading rapidly.
“We have a strong sense of danger that Tokyo could soon be turning into the same situation as Osaka.”
The panel later approved the extension plan, Nishimura said. Formal government approval is set for later in the day, with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga giving a news conference at 7pm (10:00 GMT).
Under the extended state of emergency, bars, restaurants, karaoke parlours and other places serving alcohol will continue to be asked to stop serving alcohol, while people will continue to be asked to avoid taking unnecessary trips.
Commercial facilities such as shopping malls, for instance, will be asked to shorten opening hours rather than close completely – though he noted that Tokyo and Osaka would make their own decisions based on local conditions.
All hospital beds for critical patients in Osaka are occupied, public broadcaster NHK reported on Friday.
Nationwide, Japan has recorded 618,197 cases of novel coronavirus infection and about 10,585 deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory disease the virus causes, government figures showed.