Japan to extend Covid-19 'state of emergency' lockdown to Sept 12

TOKYO (REUTERS) - The Japanese government is set to extend its "state of emergency" soft lockdown in regions including Tokyo to the middle of next month, as well as adding several other regions, the Sankei Shimbun daily reported on Monday (Aug 16).

The current state of emergency is due to expire on Aug 31, but a continuing surge in coronavirus cases has spurred calls to extend it.

Tokyo announced 2,962 new daily cases on Monday, after a record 5,773 on Friday.

The government will expand the state of emergency curbs to the prefectures of Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka, public broadcaster NHK said.

It will also expand less strict "quasi-emergency" measures to four additional prefectures – Miyagi, Yamanashi, Toyama and Gifu – to cover more regions of the country, Jiji news agency reported.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters earlier on Monday that the government will seek the view of experts on emergency and less strict "quasi-emergency" curbs for all regions on Tuesday, without giving more details.

Organisers of the Tokyo Paralympics, due to begin on Aug 24, announced on Monday spectators will be barred from the Games.

"More stringent measures will be taken for competitions to be held in these prefectures, including no spectators," organisers said in a joint statement with local and national government and the International Paralympic Committee.

The organising committee had agreed last week to limit spectators at the Paralympic events, media reports said, due to the continuing state of emergency in Tokyo. The Olympics were held mostly without spectators.

Though the Japanese government has instituted repeated states of emergency, their effectiveness has been limited due to laws mandating that the government can only request cooperation.

Pandemic fatigue and summer vacations have also been blamed for contributing to the latest Covid-19 surge in a nation where only around 36 per cent of people have been fully vaccinated.