Japanese government plans to extend viral emergency until September 30
(Bloomberg) – The Japanese government plans to extend the viral emergency for Tokyo and large parts of the country by more than two weeks beyond Sunday’s current expiration as high levels of delta-variant infections continue to rise straining the medical system.
The government has told the ruling coalition it plans to extend the state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and 17 other prefectures until September 30, public broadcaster NHK reported Wednesday evening without attribution.
There are also plans to gradually normalize the economy with the use of vaccination certificates even in areas of emergency, NHK said in a separate report. Restrictions on restaurants and bars would be relaxed if they were certified, while fully vaccinated people would not be discouraged from traveling within the country, he said.
Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, the government’s czar for coronavirus policy, was officially due to make the recommendation on Thursday morning. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga usually consults with experts and formalizes the recommendation soon after.
The move comes less than a week after Suga announced his resignation following waning public support as he struggled to contain the surge in cases to record levels. His replacement faces the delicate task of balancing efforts to bring the virus under control with the need to support the economy and chart a way forward to normalize activity.
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Across Japan, 21 prefectures and areas are currently in a state of emergency and the measures cover more than 70% of the population.
States of emergency, which have little legal bite, have become less effective in changing people’s behavior over time. Many bars and restaurants ignore instructions to close early and stop serving alcohol, despite the threat of fines.
Cases in Tokyo rose from a peak of 5,773 on August 13 to 1,834 on Wednesday. Although the numbers have fallen from all-time highs, they are still at some of their highest levels throughout the pandemic.
Japan has been slow to get started with its immunization program, but the country has accelerated, with 48% of its population now fully immunized. This compares to 53.8% in the United States, which started their program several months earlier.
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