TOKYO: Public health expert Shigeru Omi on Thursday expressed a grave sense of crisis over the novel coronavirus in Japan, where new COVID-19 cases are surging in the middle of the Tokyo Olympics.
“Other than coronavirus vaccinations, no factor can be seen that would contribute to reducing infections,” Omi, who heads the government’s key COVID-19 advisory panel, told a parliamentary committee off-session meeting.
“There are many factors to push up” new infection numbers, he said, adding that the public is getting used to the coronavirus crisis.
He also cited the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant, summer breaks and the Tokyo Games as possible factors behind the infection surges.
Strains on the medical system would become even more severe sooner or later unless a sense of crisis is shared by the public, he said.
He underlined the need to prepare for a possible increase in deaths of COVID-19 sufferers staying home.
On the Tokyo Olympics, which started last week despite calls for cancelling or postponing the event, Omi said the government and the Tokyo Games organizing committee are responsible for taking all possible measures to prevent the virus from spreading further and strains on the medical system from increasing further.
The government is considering expanding the coronavirus state of emergency for Tokyo and Okinawa Prefecture to newly cover Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, all bordering Tokyo, as well as Osaka Prefecture, western Japan.
The government will make a decision promptly if it receives requests for declaring a state of emergency from prefectural governments, said economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who heads the government’s response to the virus crisis.
The government will implement coronavirus measures even more strictly to curb new infection cases and secure more hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, he said.