Osaka’s COVID-19 cases hit record-high as Japan’s health minister urges vigilance

08-Apr-2021 Intellasia | Xinhua | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Japanese health minister Norihisa Tamura on Tuesday warned that the number of COVID-19 infections in Tokyo has been consistently rising and called for increased vigilance.

Meanwhile, new infections in the western prefecture of Osaka surged to an all-time high, far eclipsing those in the capital on Tuesday, amid concerns that tougher anti-virus measures just implemented may not be enough.

Tamura said that while COVID-19 cases in the capital had not risen as sharp as regions recently placed under stricter anti-virus measures, the situation in Tokyo required “extreme caution because a sharp rebound in the Tokyo metropolitan area could affect the whole nation.”

He said that residents in the capital of 14 million, as well as those running businesses and people working in the health care sector should “remain vigilant.”

His remarks came as Tokyo confirmed 399 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, rising by 35 from a week ago and marking a week-on-week increase for the sixth straight day.

Tokyo’s latest figure, however, was far eclipsed by Osaka reporting a record-high number of new daily cases at 719, with the figure surpassing Tokyo’s for the eighth successive day.

Osaka’s cases soared from 341 cases confirmed the previous day.

New COVID-19 infections have continued to surge in Osaka despite stricter anti-virus measures going into effect on Monday for the prefecture, along with Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures, under a revised law that does not require declaring a state of emergency.

The tougher measures are effective for one month until May 5 and have been implemented based on a revised law enabling the central government to declare a situation that falls short of a state of emergency in which special measures can be taken to counter the spread of the virus.

The stronger measures that can be taken by the three prefectures could include imposing fines on bars and restaurants that ignore requests to shorten their operating hours.

Businesses are also urged to promote remote working for their employees, and large spectator events have had the numbers of attendees capped at 5,000 in the prefectures, under the tougher measures.

The designation as being on the verge of a state of emergency can be applied when infections are surging in a situation equivalent to Stage 3, the second-highest on the government’s four-tier alert system.

Osaka and Miyagi prefectures have already reached Stage 4, the highest on the government’s alert scale, based on the volume of weekly infection cases per 100,000 people. Hyogo Prefecture is at Stage 3, the health ministry has said.

Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga has said that while COVID-19 cases are surging, the situation does not mean the country is entering a fourth wave of infections.

Suga has said that there is a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures and that more people were moving around Tokyo and its three neighbouring prefectures since a state of emergency for the Greater Tokyo region was lifted two weeks ago. “The current situation has yet to reach a major nationwide surge that can be called a fourth wave,” Suga said amid concerns that in addition to Osaka and Hyogo, cases may also rise again in Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures.

Japan’s central government has granted the requests of Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures to take the stronger measures and be designated as being on the verge of a state of emergency under the revised law, but some local officials believe the measures do not go far enough.

“Infections are spreading at workplaces and universities, and there are many people for whom transmission routes are unknown,” a senior official of the Osaka prefectural government was quoted recently as saying.

“Restrictions on dining establishments alone won’t stem the spread,” the official said.


Category: Japan

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