For variants, Japan fears 4th wave before the Olympics

The variants appear to be more infectious and may be resistant to vaccines, which are not yet widely available in Japan

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Japanese health officials fear that variants of the coronavirus are driving a fourth wave of the pandemic in the country, just 109 days before the Tokyo Olympics.




Mask pedestrians on Tokyo street 03/18/2021 REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon

Mask pedestrians on Tokyo street 03/18/2021 REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon

Photo: Reuters

The variants appear to be more infectious and may be resistant to vaccines, which are not yet widely available in Japan. The situation is worse in Osaka, where infections reached new records last week, prompting the regional government to adopt targeted lockdown measures during one month from this Monday.

A mutant variant of covid-19 first detected in the UK is taking over the Osaka region, spreading faster and filling hospital beds with more severe cases than those of the original virus, according to Koji Wada, an adviser to the government for the pandemic.

“The fourth wave will be bigger,” said Wada, a professor at Tokyo International University of Health and Welfare. “We need to start debating how we could use these targeted measures in the Tokyo area.”

Japan declared a state of emergency that covered most of the country twice last year, the most recent shortly after the New Year, when the third and most deadly wave of the pandemic hit the country. Now the authorities are opting for more targeted measures that allow city governments to shorten business hours and impose fines for disobedience.

The city of Osaka has canceled events for the Olympic torch relay, but Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga insists that Japan will host the Games as agreed.

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