Japan expands Covid-19 emergency ahead of Tokyo Olympics

Japan on Friday expanded a coronavirus state of emergency, currently in Tokyo and five other prefectures, to nine areas. The three additions include northern island state of Hokkaido, Hiroshima and Okayama in western Japan.

Tokyo Olympics

On Thursday, Japan reported 6,800 new confirmed cases, adding to its total of 665,547 with 11,255 deaths.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Japan on Friday expanded a coronavirus state of emergency, currently in Tokyo and five other prefectures, to nine areas even as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's government remained determined to hold the Olympics in just over two months.

The three additions include Japan’s northern island state of Hokkaido, where the Olympic marathon will be held, Hiroshima and Okayama in western Japan.

“Infections are escalating extremely rapidly in populated areas," Suga said while explaining the decision.

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His government is under heavy pressure from the public, increasingly frustrated by the slow vaccine rollout and repeated emergency declarations. Many now oppose hosting the Olympics from July 23-Aug. 8, and people appear to be less cooperative with stay-at-home and social-distancing requests that are not compulsory anyway.

Less than 2 per cent of the public has been fully vaccinated. The expansion of the state of emergency is a major shift from the government’s initial plan that relied on less stringent measures.

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The expansion in areas covered by emergency measures comes just days after Japanese organisers announced that International Olympic Committee chairman Thomas Bach’s trip, originally scheduled for next week to mark the Hiroshima leg of the torch relay, has been cancelled.

On Thursday, Japan reported 6,800 new confirmed cases, adding to its total of 665,547 with 11,255 deaths.

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