Coronavirus pandemic

Japan's daily case tally worse than during state of emergency

A woman sitting across from a mannequin used to enforce social distancing at a restaurant in Tokyo, which recorded 266 cases yesterday.
A woman sitting across from a mannequin used to enforce social distancing at a restaurant in Tokyo, which recorded 266 cases yesterday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

At least five prefectures - including Kyoto, Osaka and Okinawa - registered new daily highs in Covid-19 infections yesterday, raising questions on the wisdom of Japan's national travel campaign and the effectiveness of the country's comparatively laissez-faire approach.

Unlike the steps that were taken during a state of emergency from April 7 to May 25, there are no national business closure advisories or stay-home requests this time.

The government insists the situation does not warrant another economic shutdown, attributing the rising numbers to more aggressive testing and vigorous contact tracing efforts that have sniffed out asymptomatic and mild cases.

But this belies the fact that the national tally has surpassed the high of 720 cases during the emergency on six of the past seven days, including 965 cases as of 8pm yesterday.

Among these are 266 in Tokyo, while Osaka (155), Aichi (110), Kyoto (31), Gifu (25) and Okinawa (21, excluding US base camp infections) all reset unwanted records.

These figures have been occurring since the start of the multibillion-dollar domestic Go To travel campaign last Wednesday.

But underscoring another threat as Japan gears up for summer - typically a season of brutal heat and typhoons - is Kumamoto prefecture, now recovering from flooding and landslides due to torrential rain this month that left at least 65 people dead. Coronavirus cases there have spiked, with the 76 cases in the three days since Sunday alone accounting for more than half of the prefecture's total of 136.

News channels last night devoted airtime to the growing strain on Japanese hospitals, with about 600 diagnosed Covid-19 patients awaiting admission in Tokyo.

In Nagoya, a woman in her 20s said she was "wrecked" that she was endangering her family after she was made to wait for five days for a Covid-19 test at home, despite symptoms of a 39.4 deg C fever and breathing difficulties.

Leaders, including Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura, have urged residents to avoid unnecessary outings. Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said gatherings should be capped at five people.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2020, with the headline 'Japan's daily case tally worse than during state of emergency'. Print Edition | Subscribe