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Japan extends COVID emergency until end of September

Japan extends emergency

Japan announced Thursday it is extending a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and 18 other areas until the end of September as health care systems remain under severe strain, although new infections have slowed slightly.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said serious cases remain high and are still overwhelming many hospitals.

The current state of emergency, which was to end on Sunday, was issued first in Okinawa in May and gradually expanded. Despite the prolonged emergency, the largely voluntary measures have become less effective as the exhausted public increasingly ignores them.

The extension will cover a period when Japan’s government is in transition. Suga has announced that he will not run in a Sept. 29 race for his party’s leadership, and his successor in that race will likely become the next prime minister.

Suga's government has faced sharp criticism over its handling of the virus and for holding the Olympics despite public opposition during a pandemic.

 

Economy and Fiscal Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, also in charge of COVID-19 measures, proposed the extension of the emergency at a meeting Thursday, saying that serious cases remained high and still are overwhelming many hospitals and tens of thousands of patients are staying at home or makeshift facilities.

“We need to stabilize the medical systems and make sure the infections are steadily decreasing and relieve extra burden on the healthcare systems,” Nishimura said.

The government, meanwhile, is studying a road map for easing restrictions around November when the large majority of the population is expected to be fully vaccinated. The easing of restrictions would allow the fully vaccinated to travel, gather for parties or attend mass events.

As of now, about 49% of the people have completed inoculations and the rate is expected to exceed 60% by the end of September, Nishimura said.



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