Tokyo’s 2,848 daily coronavirus infections on Tuesday were the Olympic host city’s highest since the pandemic began, officials said, as media reported that authorities had asked hospitals to prepare more beds for patients.
Japan has avoided the devastating outbreaks suffered by other nations such as India, Indonesia and the United States, but the fifth wave of the pandemic fuelled by the Delta variant is piling pressure on Tokyo’s hospitals.
By Sunday, 20.8 per cent of the Japanese capital’s 12,635 Covid-19 patients had been hospitalised. A government advisory panel sees rates of less than 25 per cent as a trigger to consider imposition of a state of emergency.
Tokyo has already declared a fourth state of emergency this month, to run until after the Olympics, and Japan made the unprecedented decision to hold the Games, postponed from last year by the pandemic, without spectators to stem its spread.
As hospitals admit more patients, Tokyo aims to boost the number of beds to 6,406 by early next month from 5,967 now, broadcaster TBS said.
Hospitals should look at pushing back planned surgery and scaling down other treatments, the broadcaster said, citing a notice to medical institutions from city authorities.
Health experts had warned that seasonal factors, increased mobility, and the spread of variants would lead to a rebound in Covid-19 cases this summer.
While vaccinations boost protection for the oldest citizens most likely to need emergency care, just 36 per cent of the population has received at least one dose.
“Vaccination is the key to our freedom. Getting jabs in arms is a key part of our strategy,” said state premier Gladys Berejiklian. “I want August to be the month where everyone comes forward to get the jab. That is key to us being able to see what September looks like. I don’t think anyone can deny that the vaccination rate is absolutely key to how we live life in NSW.”
The lockdown had been due to end on Saturday but with less than 13 per cent of the state’s population fully vaccinated, curbs in some form were expected to remain.
More than half of Australia’s population of nearly 26 million has been in lockdown after an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant took hold in the state of New South Wales and spread to three others.
New South Wales reported 172 Covid cases in the past 24 hours, up from 145 a day earlier, with at least 60 in the community while infectious. Two more deaths were also reported: both were unvaccinated women in their 80s, said Berejiklian.
The epicentre of the outbreak in Sydney has now shifted towards the city’s west. One block of 50 flats was locked down and placed under police guard after six residents across several households tested positive. All residents of the block in Blacktown are being tested, with food and other services being provided for the 14-day quarantine period.
The cases had been linked to a funeral gathering a week ago, attended by about 50 people. It has led to at least 28 infections.
Measures have also been taken at two Sydney hospitals, after two nurses and a student nurse tested positive. Eight patients have since been diagnosed with Covid-19. The nursing staff were partially vaccinated.
In another blow for Australia’s bungled rollout, it was revealed that one of the federal government’s key vaccine deals has been hit with major delays, with 51m doses of Novavax originally due to arrive in the second half of this year now not expected until 2022. The doses will now form part of the government’s booster strategy.
Elsewhere, the states of Victoria and South Australia announced that they would lift their own lockdowns after bringing smaller outbreaks under control. – Reuters/Guardian