Japan will increase its coronavirus emergency status for the second week in succession Wednesday. This was due to an increase in infection rates caused by the Delta variant strains of the country’s healthcare system.
Last week, the government extended the state of emergency to Sept. 12, and increased the area covered to 13 prefectures (from six including Tokyo). Sixteen additional prefectures are currently in quasi-emergency status.
At Wednesday’s meeting of experts, the government proposed that eight prefectures be upgraded from quasi-emergency status into a full emergency. These prefectures are Hokkaido, Miyagi and Aichi in the north and Aichi, Gifu and Hiroshima in central Japan.
It was expected that the proposal would be approved and officially announced Wednesday.
Japan’s emergency requires that restaurants close at 8 p.m. and serve no alcohol. However, these measures are becoming increasingly difficult to enforce. Due to increasing complacency, unenforceable social distancing or tele-working requests for the general public and their employers are often ignored.
Although the Japanese capital is under emergency since July 12, new daily cases have increased more that tenfold to approximately 5,000 in Tokyo and 25.000 nationwide. Many people are now required to recuperate at home as hospitals are rapidly filling.
Tokyo has more than 35,000 people who are currently recovering at home. About one-third of these patients cannot find a hotel or hospital that is available immediately. Experts say that only a few hospitals will accept virus patients. This could be because they are unable to treat the infection or financial reasons.
Japan has fared better than other countries in the face of the pandemic, with approximately 15,600 deaths since its inception. However, Japan’s vaccination efforts are behind those of other wealthy countries. Around 40% of the population, mostly elderly people, has been fully immunized.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, Economy and Fiscal Policy Minister, stated Wednesday that the majority of people in their 20s and 50s are not vaccinated. He advised them to exercise extra caution.
He said, “Just think you might be the one infected tomorrow.”
According to Dr. Shigeru Omi (top government medical advisor), rising infections among teenagers and schoolchildren could increase the rate of the epidemic as they return to school after summer vacation. He suggested schools stop all forms of activity and encouraged colleges and high schools to go online.
He said Wednesday that infections in Tokyo show no signs of slowing down and that the medical system will remain tight for some time.
The government was criticised for hosting the Paralympics and Tokyo Olympics this summer despite opposition from the public. Officials denied any connection between the games and the rise in infections.