Tokyo virus situation is out of control, panel expert says


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,” Norio Omagari said at a Thursday 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.

Koike called for measures that would reduce the frequency of people’s outings by 50%, 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 rollout, and tightening restrictions on who can be hospitalized.

Japan has fully vaccinated about 36% of its population, compared with 60% in the U.K. and 51% in the US, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker.

Tokyo found 4,200 new cases of Covid-19 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 health care 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 Thursday.

Key developments:

South Korea says more virus steps may be needed  

South Korea said that virus cases could increase under its current social distancing rules, and indicated additional measures may be needed. The country reported 1,987 more coronavirus cases on Wednesday, after infections hit a daily record of 2,223 on Tuesday. 

China partly shuts world’s third-busiest port

China partly shut the world’s third-busiest container port after a worker became infected with Covid. All inbound and outbound container services at Meishan terminal in Ningbo-Zhoushan port were halted Wednesday until further notice.

It’s the second shutdown of a Chinese port due to an outbreak recently, after the closure of Yantian port in Shenzhen from late May for about a month.

Australia’s capital Canberra to enter one-week lockdown

Australia’s capital Canberra will enter a snap seven-day lockdown on Thursday after detecting one Covid-19 case, as the Delta outbreak that’s roiling Sydney spreads to regional areas of the nation.

Canberra and the surrounding Australian Capital Territory will start its lockdown from 5.p.m. Thursday, local health authorities said in an e-mailed statement. The national capital’s case was the first recorded there outside of the hotel-quarantine system in more than a year; it is currently unknown how the person was infected.

Japan plans spectator-free Paralympics in Tokyo

The Japanese government and organizers are planning to hold the Paralympic games without spectators in Tokyo and other areas covered by the state of emergency, local broadcaster NTV reported.

A decision has not yet been formally made on whether fans could attend the Paralympics, after the Olympic Games ended Sunday mostly without spectators. Organizers had expressed hope the Covid situation might improve enough to make fans a possibility, but that is looking unlikely with Japan reporting a record 15,812 cases on Wednesday, according to a tally by NHK.

New Zealand to speed up shots before 2022 reopening

New Zealand will speed up its vaccine rollout ahead of a phased reopening of its border early next year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

The government will make the Pfizer vaccine available to all adults sooner than previously planned and increase the gap between doses to six weeks from three, Ardern said in a speech Thursday in Wellington. That will allow more people to get their first dose sooner and ensure as many as possible are at least partially vaccinated in coming months, she said.

Record cases in Mexico

Mexico saw a record rise in Covid-19 cases on Wednesday as the spread of the pandemic accelerates after several months of relief from the virus. Cases rose 22,711 to 3,020,596, according to Health Ministry data. Deaths increased by 727.

Shanghai back on high alert

A year after becoming the world’s first major financial center to tame the virus, Shanghai is going back on high alert as the Delta variant spreads in China.

Shanghai’s more than 470,000 finance professionals, who have nearly all been back at work and mask-free since the middle of last year, now face regular temperature scans and checks to enable contact tracing. At some banks, people were told to put their masks back on in common areas and hosting visitors in conference rooms was prohibited again.

FDA to clear third shot for immunocompromised

US drug regulators are set to clear a third dose of Covid vaccines for people with weak immune systems as a new study showed the benefits of an extra shot in transplant patients.

A third dose of Moderna’s vaccine significantly raised antibody levels against the coronavirus in transplant patients, according a comparison of an extra shot to a placebo in people with weak immune systems. The Food and Drug Administration is set to amend clearances as soon as Thursday for vaccines from both Moderna and Pfizer Inc. to allow extra doses for people with compromised immune systems, according a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. Bloomberg News

Image courtesy of Bloomberg

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