Tokyo coronavirus situation is out of control, panel expert says

The comments came as city and national governments consider whether to extend a state of emergency in Tokyo. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - A member of a Tokyo Metropolitan Government coronavirus advisory panel of experts said it was now impossible to control the spread of Covid-19 in the capital.

"The infection is spreading at a pace not seen before and the number of new cases is increasing rapidly," Dr Norio Omagari said at a Thursday (Aug 12) panel meeting with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike. "It's impossible to control the situation."

His comments came as the city and national governments consider whether to extend a state of emergency in Tokyo, which is experiencing its worst-ever wave of virus cases. The emergency is currently set to be lifted at the end of August.

The imposition of successive states of emergency has become less effective over time, with many bars and restaurants ignoring instructions to close early and stop serving alcohol.

Ms Koike called for measures that would reduce the frequency of people's outings by 50 per cent, compared with the period immediately prior to the current emergency, echoing the advice of a government panel reported by public broadcaster NHK earlier in the day.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and other senior government officials have rejected the idea of European-style lockdowns to contain the virus, instead saying they are relying on the vaccine roll-out, and tightening restrictions on who can be hospitalised.

Japan has fully vaccinated about 36 per cent of its population, compared with 60 per cent in Britain and 51 per cent in the United States, according to Bloomberg's Vaccine Tracker.

Tokyo found 4,200 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday after hitting a record 5,042 last Thursday, with the pace of infections appearing to level off. However, the number of patients in hospitals and those in serious condition is continuing to hit records, putting the capital's healthcare system under strain.

Japan's central government is considering extending the state of emergency into September, and expanding it to more regions, the Sankei newspaper reported earlier on Thursday.

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