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Japan tops 1 million Covid-19 cases as Olympics fuels new infections

Japan tops 1 million Covid-19 cases as Olympics fuels new infections
Japan has reached the solemn milestone of one million registered Covid-19 infections, with case numbers outside the capital swelling and the inoculation campaign lagging as the end of the Olympic Games draws near.

On Friday, Japanese media reported that the milestone of one million Covid-19 cases had been reached as new cases in the capital Tokyo hit 4,515, the second-highest recorded after 5,042 on Thursday.

Neighboring prefectures have also seen infection rates skyrocket in recent weeks. The prefecture of Kanagawa has seen case numbers reach over 2,000 in a single day, quadrupling in less than two weeks.

Meanwhile, 1,310 infections were recorded in Osaka, the country’s third-biggest city, as the more contagious Delta variant becomes increasingly prevalent across the nation.

“We need to take into account local conditions. Each region can take their own step,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Hiroshima, amid calls to extend the state of emergency to the country as a whole. He spoke while attending a remembrance ceremony commemorating the atomic bombing of the city in 1945. 

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While Japan appeared to successfully avoid the worst of the pandemic in 2020, the prevalence of new variants, including Delta, and the hosting of the Olympic Games has fueled a rise in cases.

Suga said a decision on whether spectators would be allowed at the Paralympic Games, which run from August 24 to September 5, will be made after the Olympics finishes on Sunday.

To date, around 36% of Japan’s population have received at least one shot, considerably less than other industrialized countries. The slow inoculation campaign and rising case numbers have put increasing strain on the country’s healthcare facilities.

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