Tokyo asks government to allow it to take virus measures
TOKYO (AP) - Tokyo has asked Japan's central government for permission to take immediate action to contain the surge of a rapidly spreading and contagious variant of coronavirus just over three months before the Olympics begin.
Tokyo came out of a state of emergency on March 21st. Its governor, Yuriko Koike, told reporters Thursday that it had asked the government to issue binding orders under a new virus prevention law passed in February that includes a penalty for entrepreneurs who oppose action and compensation for those who do adhere to.
Tokyo's move follows Osaka in western Japan, which declared a medical emergency after its hospitals were overwhelmed with new cases.
Tokyo reported 545 cases on Thursday, the highest since early February. Koike said she was alarmed by the rapid spread of the new variants, particularly one that was originally discovered in the UK.
"It would be a matter of time before Tokyo faces a situation similar to Osaka," said Koike.
She said the timing and details of the new measures, including shorter hours for restaurants and bars, will be set later, possibly on Friday.
The most recent spike began in western Japan, including Osaka, where the daily toll hit a record of 878, and Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura called for the Olympic torch relay, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, to take place in a park rather than on public roads. He said more than 70% of hospital beds were occupied, a threshold for a local medical alert.
Infections have also increased elsewhere in the country. With Japan's vaccination campaign still in its early stages, the surge could lead to further cancellations of Olympic events.
Vaccinations started with medics in mid-February but still make up less than 1% of the population. Vaccinations for the elderly are slated to start next week and the rest will likely have to wait until around July.
That story corrected itself when the Tokyo state of emergency was lifted.
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