Breaking News
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

Japan expands COVID-19 curbs as surges strain hospitals

Coronavirus NewsAug 05, 2021 10:25
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians wearing protective face masks make their way at a shopping district on the first day of the country's third state of emergency, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, April 25, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-H

By Ami Miyazaki and Linda Sieg

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan decided on Thursday to expand its COVID-19 emergency curbs to cover more than 70% of the population, as a record surge in cases strained hospitals in the Olympics host city Tokyo and other parts of the country.

Japan had avoided the explosive outbreaks seen elsewhere. But infections are rising fast as new cases hit record highs in Tokyo, overshadowing the July 23-Aug. 8 Olympics and fuelling doubts over Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's pandemic response.

Suga announced the new steps - which are mostly voluntary, unlike strict lockdowns overseas - as new daily cases in Tokyo hit a record 5,042. Nationwide new cases topped 15,000 for the first time, while medical advisors to the capital said the Tokyo figure could double in two weeks, NHK public TV reported.

"The situation on the ground (at hospitals) is extremely severe," Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a panel of experts before Suga's formal announcement. He said serious cases had doubled in the past two weeks.

The panel signed off on the proposal to declare "quasi-emergencies" in eight more of Japan's 47 prefectures. But Nishimura told a news conference some members had said the situation was severe enough to require a nationwide emergency.

Suga told reporters the government was "not considering that now" and would focus on hot-spot areas.

Six prefectures including Tokyo are already under full states of emergency to last through Aug. 31 and another five are under less strict directives, meaning just over half the population is covered by some restrictions.

Both types of curbs have recently focused on asking restaurants to close early and stop serving alcohol while urging people to stay at home as much as possible. Suga on Thursday also asked people to refrain from travel during summer holidays.

The latest steps, to take effect from Sunday, mean that more than 70% of the population will be under some form of restriction. Criticism of Suga, his ratings already at record lows, is growing over his handling of the pandemic.


The government says the Olympics has not caused the latest surge but experts say holding the Games now has sent a mixed message to an already weary public about the need to stay at home.

Games organisers on Thursday reported 31 new Games-related COVID-19 cases, bringing the total since July 1 to 353.

It remains to be seen whether the latest COVID-19 restrictions, which are mostly voluntary, will have much impact as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads.

"I do not think that more (quasi-emergency steps) will make much difference - (it's) simply a political statement," said Kenji Shibuya, former director of the Institute for Population Health at King's College London.

The latest expansion follows a backlash against Suga's plan to limit hospitalisation of COVID-19 patients to those who are seriously ill and those at risk of becoming so. Others are told to isolate at home.

The shift is intended to address a hospital bed crunch, but critics say it will lead to an increase in deaths since the condition of patients can worsen rapidly.

In response to criticism from within and outside his ruling coalition, Suga said on Wednesday the change was aimed at regions suffering a surge in COVID-19 cases, such as Tokyo, and was not nationally uniform.

On Thursday, he appeared to back-pedal further, saying moderately ill patients in need of oxygen treatment would be admitted to hospital and doctors would make final decisions.

The backlash is another blow to Suga before a ruling party leadership race and parliamentary election this year.

Just under 31% of residents of Japan are fully vaccinated. With 15,221 deaths recorded as of Wednesday, the COVID-19 mortality rate was about 1.6%, in line with the United States.

Japan expands COVID-19 curbs as surges strain hospitals

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind: 

  • Enrich the conversation
  • Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed.
  • Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically.
  •  Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and links within a comment will be removed
  • Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user.
  • Don’t Monopolize the Conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also believe strongly in giving everyone a chance to air their thoughts. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email