| 16 April 2024, Tuesday |

Japan’s Osaka set to declare emergency amid record COVID-19 cases

The Japanese metropolis of Osaka is to declare a medical emergency as new coronavirus cases jump to all-time highs, the Kyodo news agency said on Wednesday.

New infections will likely surpass 800 a day and authorities in the prefecture have buckled down to declare an emergency as the medical system comes under growing pressure, Kyodo cited officials as saying.

A spokesman for the Osaka prefecture could not confirm that infection tally when contacted by Reuters and said an emergency declaration was still being mulled.

Health authorities are concerned that variants of COVID-19 are causing a fourth wave of infections with just 107 days until the Tokyo Olympics are due to begin and while a vaccination drive is still in its early stages.

The Osaka cabinet reported 719 new infections on Tuesday, the highest since the pandemic started. According to official data, nearly 70% of hospital beds for severe cases are now occupied.

Osaka and the neighboring prefectures of Hyogo and Miyagi started targeted lockdown measures for a month from Monday in a bid to contain a more virulent strain of the virus that has been spreading.

Osaka’s infections have exceeded those in the much larger city of Tokyo in recent days.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said emergency measures employed in the Osaka area could be extended to Tokyo and elsewhere if needed.

Japan’s inoculation drive is far behind that of most major economies.

About 1 million people in Japan have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose since February, which is less than 1% of the population, compared with almost 2% in South Korea, which started its campaign after Japan.

  • Reuters