© Reuters. On August 2, 2021, during the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan, commuters wearing masks arrived at Shinagawa Station at the beginning of the working day. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
By Leika Kihara
TOKYO (Reuters)-Japan warned on Wednesday that as new cases in Tokyo hit a record high, new coronavirus infections are increasing at an unprecedented rate, casting a shadow over the Olympics and increasing suspicion about the government’s response to the epidemic.
Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said that the Delta variant caused the spread of infections “unseen in the past” and he defended a new policy that requires patients with mild symptoms to be isolated at home instead of going to the hospital.
“The pandemic has entered a new phase…Unless we have enough beds, we cannot send people to the hospital. We are taking preemptive action in this regard,” Tamura told the council.
But he hinted that the policy might be cancelled because the decision to require some patients to stay at home has attracted criticism from medical experts, saying it puts their lives at risk.
“If things don’t develop as we expected, we can withdraw the policy,” Tamura said, adding that the policy change was in response to the unexpectedly rapid spread of new variants.
The number of coronavirus cases in Japan has increased dramatically. Tokyo reported a record 4,166 new cases on Wednesday.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Monday that only severely ill and at-risk COVID-19 patients will be hospitalized, while others will be quarantined at home. Some people worry that policy changes may lead to an increase in deaths.
Jiji News Agency reported on Wednesday that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party officials have agreed to seek to revoke the policy and joined similar appeals from opposition lawmakers.
This kind of outcry was another setback for Suga Yoshihide, who was supported in his handling of the pandemic before this year’s general election.
Opinion polls show that many Japanese are opposed to hosting the Olympics, while the country’s efforts to contain the pandemic and vaccinate the people have lagged.
Yoshihide Suga and the Olympic organizers stated that there was no contact between July 23 and August 3. 8 games and cases surged.
But Shigeru Omi, a senior medical adviser, told the Parliament that hosting the Olympics may affect public sentiment and weaken the government’s influence on people’s stay at home.
He said that implementing a state of emergency across the country may be an option to deal with the pandemic. Some counties and Tokyo have entered a state of emergency.
“Political leaders are seriously sending a message to the public, but it may not be as strong and consistent as hoped,” Omi said. “We are seeing more widespread COVID-19 clusters, including in schools and offices,” he said.
(Created by Robert Bossel)
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