TOKYO, March 5 — Japan will extend a virus state of emergency in the Tokyo area by a fortnight, officials said today, less than five months before the pandemic-postponed Tokyo Olympics.
The decision came as Moderna filed for approval of its Covid-19 vaccine in Japan, becoming the third major drug firm to do so, its distribution partner Takeda said.
The Pfizer/BioNTech is so far the only jab approved for use in Japan, which is taking a cautious approach to its inoculation campaign that launched in a limited fashion last month.
Despite a winter spike in infections, Japan has seen a comparatively small outbreak overall with just over 8,000 deaths, and has avoided imposing the blanket lockdowns seen in other countries.
The state of emergency, which primarily calls for bars and restaurants to close from 8pm, was due to end on Sunday and has been lifted early in other regions.
It has brought infections down in the capital but the rate of decline is slowing and experts warn of a potential resurgence when restrictions are removed.
Top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said the virus emergency would continue in Tokyo and three surrounding regions until March 21 — four days before the nationwide Olympic torch relay kicks off in northeastern Fukushima prefecture.
The two-week extension, expected to be formally announced later on Friday, could cost the economy an extra ¥700 billion (RM26.4 billion) in lost consumption, Tokyo-based think-tank NRI predicted.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga apologised for the imminent extension but said the government was “doing its utmost to prevent a rebound” in infections.
Tokyo logged around 270 daily cases on average over the past week.
Japan’s response to the virus is in the spotlight as Tokyo prepares to host the postponed Olympics, due to start on July 23.
Tokyo 2020 organisers have outlined measures they say will keep the Games safe — even without requiring participants to be vaccinated or quarantined on arrival.
Border restrictions currently bar almost all foreign arrivals, which has forced the postponement of the year’s first test event, an artistic swimming qualifier.
Japan began its vaccination programme on February 17 and has so far given first doses to around 39,000 healthcare workers.
The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine was also filed for approval a month ago and domestic clinical trials are underway. — AFP