Coronavirus: Asia

Tokyo outbreak at critical juncture, warns governor

Cases could jump as Japan enters holiday period during which millions usually travel

A crowded street at the Ameya Yokocho market in the Ueno district of Tokyo yesterday. The Japanese capital recorded 944 new coronavirus cases yesterday, just under the record 949 recorded on Saturday, and medical experts warned that unless the outbre
A crowded street at the Ameya Yokocho market in the Ueno district of Tokyo yesterday. The Japanese capital recorded 944 new coronavirus cases yesterday, just under the record 949 recorded on Saturday, and medical experts warned that unless the outbreak is checked, the city could soon see over 1,000 new patients a day. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
A crowded street at the Ameya Yokocho market in the Ueno district of Tokyo yesterday. The Japanese capital recorded 944 new coronavirus cases yesterday, just under the record 949 recorded on Saturday, and medical experts warned that unless the outbre
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike

TOKYO • Tokyo's Covid-19 outbreak is severe and could explode in the coming days just as Japan begins its New Year holiday period, in which millions of people usually move around the country, the city's governor has said.

The capital recorded 944 new coronavirus cases yesterday, just under the record 949 recorded on Saturday, and medical experts warned that unless the outbreak is checked, the city could soon see over 1,000 new patients a day.

With the latest figure, the capital has seen a total of 58,840 confirmed cases.

"Please emphasise life over fun," Governor Yuriko Koike told a news conference yesterday, calling on people to stay at home as much as possible over the holiday.

Tokyo was at a critical juncture, with cold winter weather forecast and highly contagious variant strains of the coronavirus from Britain and South Africa already detected in Japan, Ms Koike said.

"The situation is extremely severe. We are facing up to a huge wave of virus cases we have not seen before," she added.

"The number of cases could explode at any time. Any one of us could become infected at any time... If we do not stamp this out now, we will be facing a much worse situation."

The Japanese government on Monday started banning the entry of non-resident foreign nationals, following the discovery of the British variant in Japan, and has been calling on citizens to refrain from the parties, family gatherings and travel that are usual at this time of year.

The policy, which will be in place until the end of next month, could affect athletes and staff planning to attend competitions and training camps in preparation for the postponed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next summer, Kyodo News reported yesterday.

About 3,400 people had died in Japan from the coronavirus in total as at late Tuesday, out of some 227,390 cases, NHK public television said.

In South Korea, new Covid-19 cases stayed above 1,000 for a second straight day yesterday and variant cases rose to five, Yonhap news agency reported.

The country has a total of 59,773 cases, with 879 deaths, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

The agency confirmed two coronavirus variant cases, bringing the Britain-originated virus cases to five.

The authorities could further tighten social distancing rules this weekend as year-end travels increased the risk of more cases, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a government meeting.

A prison in south-eastern Seoul had 771 inmates and 21 staff infected, bringing the total number of infections linked to the facility to 792, the Justice Ministry said.

Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae visited the prison on Tuesday. Meanwhile, media displayed pictures of the inmates holding up signs reading "Please save us".

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2020, with the headline 'Tokyo outbreak at critical juncture, warns governor'. Print Edition | Subscribe