Japan extends COVID-19 emergency lockdown as cases surge
Japan yesterday extended its state of emergency in Tokyo and other regions and announced new measures covering seven more prefectures to counter a spike in COVID-19 cases threatening the medical system.
The current state of emergency, the fifth of the pandemic so far, was due to expire on August 31 but will now last until September 12. Tokyo announced 4,377 new cases yestreday, after a record 5,773 on Friday.
"The Delta variant raging across the world is causing unprecedented cases in our country," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said. "Serious cases are increasing rapidly and severely burdening the medical system, particularly in the capital region."
The state of emergency will now cover nearly 60 percent of Japan's population, as the prefectures of Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka are included. Less strict "quasi-emergency" measures will be applied to a further 10 prefectures.
Restaurants will be asked to close early and stop serving alcohol in exchange for a subsidy. Suga said the government would also request occupancy limits at department stores and ask people to reduce by half the times they go to crowded areas.
Japanese shares fell for a fourth day yesterday as concerns about the fast-spreading Delta variant overshadowed optimism about upbeat earnings.
Japan's fatality rate stands at about 1.3 percent, compared with 1.7 percent in the United States and 2.1 percent in Britain.
But health experts fear deaths could spike in Japan as the Delta variant rages through the younger population and hospitals become too crowded to treat serious cases.
"Many experts expressed an extremely strong sense of crisis about the medical care situation and the status of infections," Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said after consulting with health advisers.
Over 80 percent of Tokyo's critical care beds are occupied.
Serious cases climbed to records of 276 in Tokyo and 1,646 nationwide yesterday.
Dai-ichi Life Research Institute estimated the government's extended and expanded state of emergency would lead to a total economic loss of about 1.2 trillion yen (US$11 trillion).