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Tokyo to seek COVID-19 state of emergency extension as Olympics loom

26 May 2021 17:00

TOKYO. KAZINFORM - Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike is set to ask the Japanese government to extend its COVID-19 state of emergency beyond the May 31 deadline as infections have yet to subside with just two months until the capital hosts the Summer Olympics, people with knowledge of the matter said Wednesday, Kyodo reports.

Koike discussed the move with the governors of neighboring Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures in a virtual conference in the evening.

The state of emergency, which entails banning restaurants from serving alcohol and telling them to close by 8 p.m. among other restrictions, has been in place in four prefectures including Tokyo since April 25 with an initial deadline of May 11.

After an earlier extension and several expansions, the measure is set to expire on May 31 in nine prefectures, also including Hokkaido, Aichi, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima and Fukuoka.

Koike said Wednesday there has not been enough improvement in the situation to lift the state of emergency, telling an expert panel that «while the daily number of new coronavirus cases is declining, it remains at a high level and the situation is still severe.»

Government sources said the most likely choice for the new deadline is June 20, the same as for Okinawa, the most recent addition to the emergency areas, with June 13 also a possibility. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to make a formal decision Friday, they said.

Fukuoka Gov. Seitaro Hattori said Tuesday he asked for an extension, while Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura and his counterparts in Hyogo and Kyoto on Wednesday confirmed they will do the same. The governors of Aichi and Okayama have also suggested an extension is inevitable.

A total of 3,901 new coronavirus cases were reported across Japan on Tuesday, down from more than 7,200 at the peak of the country's fourth wave of infections.

But the decline has lost momentum in some prefectures including Tokyo, where the Olympics are due to begin on July 23, while hospitals in Osaka continue to be strained by the masses of COVID-19 patients.

In Okinawa, a popular resort area that saw an influx of tourists during the Golden Week holidays, infections are sharply rising.

Meanwhile, Japan's vaccine rollout has lagged behind other developed nations, with just over 5 percent of its population having received at least one dose.