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11 weeks to Olympics: Japan extends state of emergency in Tokyo

The Japanese prime minister extended a state of emergency in Tokyo and three other regions until the end of May a few months before the Olympics to end the corona pandemic fueled by Covid-19 variants.

“There has been a rapid rise in the number of critically ill patients and deaths,” Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference, adding that the new variants of the virus are spreading rapidly. With a brief state of emergency, the government had hoped to prevent a fourth wave of contagion in cities like Tokyo and Osaka, but to no avail.

Japan is now extending the state of emergency from May 11 to May 31 – less than two months before the start of the Tokyo Olympics on July 23, which were postponed last year due to the pandemic and which many Japanese are against.

Seiko Hashimoto, the new chairman of the organizing committee, admitted at the press conference that a speculated visit by International Olympic Committee (IOC) Chairman Thomas Bach has now become “extremely difficult” with the extension of the state of emergency.

Golden Week

On Friday, two days after Golden Week, one of the most popular Japanese holiday periods of the year, Tokyo registered 907 new corona infections and 1,005 in Osaka. According to the latest figures, there are 3,763 new infections with the corona virus every day throughout the country.

The Associated Press reports that during this year’s Golden Week, there were many more Japanese visiting tourist spots in Kyoto and Nara compared to last year. After the holidays, many would have returned to their offices in packed trains, instead of telecommuting.

Slow vaccination campaign

Compared to other countries, Japan has not been hit hard by the corona crisis, but the vaccination campaign is slow to get going and many older people are still waiting for their vaccine.

Since the campaign began in mid-February, the country has vaccinated 1.7 percent of the population. Prime Minister Suga said he is stepping up efforts to vaccinate more people and that he aims to vaccinate 1 million Japanese a day.

(evb)

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