Japan must keep state of emergency, 2021 Olympics 'difficult': Expert, Latest World News - The New Paper

Japan must keep state of emergency, 2021 Olympics 'difficult': Expert

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TOKYO: It is too early to consider lifting Japan's state of emergency over the coronavirus, the head of a powerful physicians' lobby said yesterday, adding that Tokyo would find it tough to host next year's Olympics without an effective vaccine.

The comments of the Japan Medical Association (JMA) chief highlight the nation's concerns about a pandemic that prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to call the nationwide emergency until the final day of Golden Week holidays on May 6.

Japan is keeping a close watch on virus-related data to decide on an extension beyond May 6, the economy minister said.

While new daily infections have declined, testing is still not sufficient to prove the contagion is under control, JMA president Yoshitake Yokokura told a media briefing.

"I do not believe it will be possible to lift (the state of emergency) across the whole country at this stage," Dr Yokokura added.

Tokyo confirmed 112 new infections yesterday, said national broadcaster NHK, up from the capital's figure of 39 the previous day, which had been its lowest in four weeks.

The national tally stands at 13,614 infections, including 394 deaths, according to NHK.

That tally is still low compared with other nations, but critics say Japan is not doing enough testing to reveal the scope of a problem that has driven some hospitals to the brink.

Dr Yokokura blamed a lack of gowns and other protective clothing for the spread of the virus in hospitals, and urged the government to help speed development of treatments and vaccines, so as to preserve any hope of holding the Olympics next year.


"I am not saying that Japan should or shouldn't host the Olympics, but that it would be difficult to do so," he said.

"Unless an effective vaccine is developed, I expect hosting the Olympics will be difficult."

The announcement last month of a one-year delay in the 2020 Olympic Games was a major blow to Japan, which had spent US$13 billion (S$18 billion) on preparations.

The Games would be "scrapped" if they cannot take place in 2021, Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said in an interview published yesterday. - REUTERS