Tokyo raises Covid-19 alert to highest amid spike in cases

Health experts put Tokyo on the highest alert for coronavirus infections and have been alarmed by a recent spike in cases within the capital. Organisers of the Tokyo Olympics are also considering a pared-down games in 2021 over safety concerns.
The famous entertainment district of Kabukicho in Shinjuku, Tokyo, this week. Citing analysis by experts, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said yesterday that infections were clearly spreading in the capital. She stressed utmost vigilance, although she de
The famous entertainment district of Kabukicho in Shinjuku, Tokyo, this week. Citing analysis by experts, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said yesterday that infections were clearly spreading in the capital. She stressed utmost vigilance, although she declined to impose new business closure advisories or stay-home requests as medical institutions were not overwhelmed.PHOTO: REUTERS

165 new cases in Japan's capital, including 15 at construction site - latest cluster to emerge

Tokyo raised its Covid-19 alert to the highest on a four-tier scale yesterday, as the recent surge in infections in Japan's capital city began to spill over from nightlife hot spots into other areas.

The bustling metropolis recorded 165 cases yesterday, including 15 workers at a construction site.

This was the latest cluster to emerge, after those in offices, medical institutions and childcare centres, as well as a theatre in Shinjuku where at least 37 cases were detected among actors and theatregoers of a play that starred up-and-coming boyband members.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, citing analysis by experts, yesterday said that infections were clearly spreading in the city.

She stressed utmost vigilance, although she declined to impose new business closure advisories or stay-home requests as medical institutions were not overwhelmed.

Unlike in April, at the peak of the outbreak, there were just six patients in critical condition. Many of the new patients were mild or asymptomatic cases picked up by aggressive testing, she said.

But this belied the fact that the moving average of daily cases over the past seven days now stands at 186.5 cases, which is far worse than during a state of emergency that lasted from April 7 to May 25.

Dr Norio Omagari of the National Centre for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo said the average number of unlinked infections has doubled from last week.

He has also warned that Tokyo might be on the verge of an explosive growth in cases.

Prefectures bordering Tokyo have also seen a rise in daily cases, with the 41 infections yesterday in Kanagawa, south of the capital, the highest figure since April 18.

  • 165

    Number of new Covid-19 cases recorded in Tokyo yesterday.

    186.5

    Moving average of daily cases over the past seven days, worse than during a state of emergency that lasted from April 7 to May 25.

Elsewhere, Osaka, which has declared its own "Yellow Alert", saw 61 cases yesterday - the highest figure since April 20.

There was shock in Okinawa, too, amid a surge in Covid-19 cases at the United States military bases in the prefecture - at least 136 infections were recorded. Defence Minister Taro Kono pointedly said there were "multiple issues" with how the US was handling the situation.

And complicating disaster relief efforts in Kumamoto, where at least 64 people died from floods and landslides caused by heavy rain last week, was the fact that a nurse, dispatched from the city of Takamatsu in Kagawa prefecture, had tested positive for Covid-19.

Some 400 medical relief workers and evacuees are considered to have been in close contact with the male nurse.

Notwithstanding this, Economic Revitalisation Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told Parliament yesterday that the government would push ahead with plans to launch the "Go To" domestic travel campaign next Wednesday, in time for the summer holiday.

The minister later backpedalled following stiff pushback by municipal and prefecture leaders and opposition lawmakers, saying that a final decision would be made by an expert panel today.

Many have questioned the wisdom of forging ahead with such a campaign when the lid has not been kept on Covid-19, suggesting a disconnect among national and local leaders as they walk the tightrope between jumpstarting an economy in recession and managing health risks.

Cases linked to Tokyo have been uncovered across the country, including three people in Nagoya yesterday who had attended the Shinjuku theatre play.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga tried to paint the surge in cases as a "Tokyo problem" last week, sparking a feud with Ms Koike, who said it was clearly a "national problem" which the "Go To" campaign would only exacerbate.

"It's like turning on the heater and air-conditioner at the same time," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2020, with the headline 'Tokyo raises Covid-19 alert to highest amid spike in cases'. Print Edition | Subscribe